2023 C&B Law Group Guide to Driving in California – Tips for Your Safety
With an estimated population of almost 40 million people, California is the most populous state in the US.
From the tech world and Bay Area in Northern California to Hollywood and beaches in SoCal, California attracts millions of visitors each year.
The most populous of any county in the US, Los Angeles County is home to around 9.8 million Californians, which is equal to about a quarter of the state’s entire population.
Adding other nearby counties like Orange or Riverside, and you get almost half of the states’ numbers.
Other statistics reveal over 27 million licensed drivers in the state. If you are one of the many drivers who soak up the California sun, chances are you want to remain as safe as possible.
Whether you’re taking a long excursion up the coast to San Francisco, or a quick trip from North Hollywood to Burbank for groceries, your safety is important.
C&B Law Group has compiled a mini-guide to help as you travel the roads and freeways around Los Angeles and other parts of the Golden State.
10 DIFFERENT RULES OF THE ROAD
First, it’s important to remember certain rules of the road that can affect you and others. Always keep in mind:
- Seatbelts must be worn at all times.
- You cannot text and drive in California.
- If you need to make a phone call, you must be on a hands-free device.
- Pedestrians always have the right of way.
- The HOV/Carpool lane is for vehicles with two or more passengers only (unless marked otherwise).
- Do not wear a headset or earplugs when driving.
- Treat inoperable traffic lights like a stop sign.
- You must drive with your license on you at all times.
- A left turn on a red light is legal going from a one way street onto another one way street.
- Do not turn against double yellow lines unless you are turning into a driveway/lot.
CAR MAINTENANCE BEFORE A LONG TRIP
Many LA residents make a trek up the coast to the Bay for a nice getaway. Whether you’re headed to a Dodgers vs Giants game, or trying to escape a warm San Fernando Valley summer, it’s important to check your vehicle before taking it out for a long haul.
Important factors to consider include:
- Have your battery checked. Make sure it’s free from corrosion.
- Change filters. A dirty filter can negatively affect your vehicle’s performance.
- Check your oil, or get an oil change if you are due for one. Top off other fluids.
- Get your tires checked. Look at the wear of each tire, and be sure the pressure is at the recommended settings.
- Ensure your lights and wipers are working properly for nighttime driving or in the event of rain.
Car accidents are inevitable, especially in a city with millions of drivers like Los Angeles.
Between 2020 and 2022, Los Angeles county has averaged 49,173 car accidents with fatal or serious injuries. That’s a 283 percent increase over number two on the list, San Diego County.
Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis, and drivers are headed everywhere at virtually all times of the day.
According to data from the City of Los Angeles, some streets are more prone to accidents than others.
The five streets with the most incidents since the start of 2022 include:
- Figueroa Street (248)
- Western Avenue (224)
- Vermont Avenue (220)
- Sepulveda Boulevard (213)
- Sherman Way (211)
Outside of Los Angeles city proper, the five cities in the county that see the most accidents leading to fatalities or injuries are:
- Long Beach (2770)
- Lancaster (960)
- Pomona (948)
- Pasadena (760)
- Downey (728)
If you get in a car accident, there are different tips to follow:
- Call 911. Do not exit the vehicle until the proper authorities have arrived, and once they do, file a police report and seek medical attention.
- Take photos and videos of any damage to your vehicle with your phone. Be sure to capture still or moving images of not only other vehicles involved in the accident, but the surrounding area, like roads, street signs, etc.
- Gather information from other drivers, including their name, phone number, drivers license, registration, and license plate number.
- Get in contact with a car accident attorney to help sort your material and see if you have a case.
MINIMUM INSURANCE POLICY LIMITS AND UMI
In California, all drivers must have their vehicle insured. Driving without insurance can result in a fine, and multiple infractions can lead to a suspended license.
According to California Vehicle Code 16056, current minimum policy limit amounts are:
- $15,000 per person
- $30,000 per accident
- $5,000 for property damage
The type of insurance can also be a factor if you get in an accident. For example, uninsured motorist insurance (UMI) will cover any damage to your vehicle in the event you are hit by someone without insurance.
Drivers who do not have a UMI will most likely have to pay out of pocket for any damages incurred from a car accident.
California has over 100,000 more registered motorcyclists than its runner-up on the list of states with the most riders. Beautiful weather and sunny days bring Los Angeles bikers out for trips across the state.
Driving a motorcycle is different from operating a car or other motor vehicle, especially when it comes to laws.
For example, you will need a specific motorcycle license in order to ride.
With a Class M1 license, you may operate any two-wheel motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized scooter, as well all vehicles listed under Class M2.
With a Class M2 license, you may operate any motorized bicycle, moped, or motorized scooter.
Furthermore, motorcyclists can split lanes in the Golden State.
California Vehicle Code Section 21658.1 states motorcycles can drive “between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways”. California is the only state that allows motorcycles to lane split.
The California Highway Patrol offers a list of tips for lane splitting motorcycle riders :
- Consider the environment when you are lane splitting. Be sure to take into account the size of the cars surrounding you, as well as the scope of the lanes.
- Higher speeds can increase the dangers of lane splitting
- It’s generally safer to split lanes between the far left than between other lanes.
- Try avoiding lane splitting next to larger vehicles like delivery trucks, school buses, etc.
- Riding your motorcycle on the shoulder is not lane splitting. It is illegal.
- Stay out of other driver’s blind spots.
- Always remain visible to other drivers around you. Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing, and use high beams during daylight.
There are a number of ways you can help keep yourself and others safe while driving any sort of vehicle, including:
- Get plenty of rest – Drowsy driving, or fatigued driving, is an extremely dangerous practice where drivers get behind the wheel while in need of sleep. Be sure to get enough rest, even if you’re just making a short trip.
- Don’t drink and drive – Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in California. A Blood-Alcohol Content level of .08 is the legal limit, and anything higher greatly reduces your ability to maintain control of your vehicle or keep general functions when driving.
- Keep your eyes on the road – We’re constantly connected to friends and family with our phones, but there comes a time to disconnect when driving. Texting can distract you from the road ahead, while other diversions like eating or personal grooming can get in the way of maintaining safety.
- Don’t drive recklessly – Reckless driving is a common cause of accidents. This includes various factors such as ignoring stop signs and not following traffic lights.
- Speeding – driving faster than the posted speed limit can greatly increase the risk of an accident. Speed limits are generally 25 MPH in business or residential areas and 65 MPH on freeways.
- Be cautious with changing lanes – always use a turn signal, and only switch when appropriate.
In terms of four-way stop signs, the general rule of thumb is to follow a “first come, first serve” basis. Under this model, the vehicle that gets to the intersection first has the right-of-way, whoever is second would be next, and so forth.
When more than one vehicle reaches a four-way stop at the same time, the vehicle to the right has the right-of-way.
While the city of Los Angeles and most outlying areas of California are generally home to milder weather, nearby areas like Big Bear, Tahoe, and Mammoth have winters packed with snow.
Wintery conditions can be extremely dangerous, especially if you aren’t used to traveling in such a climate.
The California Department of Transportation lists ways to stay safe if you travel in snow filled areas:
- All vehicles should carry chains when traveling during snowy weather, and those who don’t may not be able to proceed to their destination. You can check the CalTrans website to see if chains are needed on the path to your destination.
- Allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Snowfall and other winter weather can greatly impact travel arrangements, as 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement.
- Posted speed limits are not always applicable in wintery conditions. Driving slower can decrease your chances of a major car accident.
- Drive defensively, and be observant of other vehicles
Winter weather doesn’t only include snow.
Rainy conditions are far more common in cities with milder climates like Los Angeles. As most Californians learned in early 2023, inclement weather such as rain and high winds can cause significant delays in traffic.
Studies show that 21 percent of drivers involved in crashes on wet roadways suffered fatal injuries.
The Department of Motor Vehicles suggests the following speeds for different conditions:
- Wet road: Reduce your speed by 5 to 10 mph.
- Packed snow: Reduce your speed by half.
- Ice: Reduce your speed to no more than 5 mph.
The team at C&B Law Group sincerely hopes that this guide helps you on the road in California.
Driving in California can be amazing. With wonderful views of the ocean and top tourist destinations, it’s difficult to have a dull moment in the Golden State.
If you are ever in a dangerous situation, call 911 immediately.
If you were the victim of a car accident, we’re here to help. Contact a personal injury lawyer today about a free consultation.