What You Should Know About the Southern California Freeways - Relocation Tips
If you are moving to the Southern California area, there are some things you might want to know about our freeways, especially if you have not experienced them. I am not a freeway expert, but I have logged thousands of miles and these are my thoughts and observations, for what they are worth. Plus a bit of useless trivia.
They are called FREEWAYS, not highways or turnpikes, terms I have heard in other parts of the country. People will correct you. I still let (highway” slip out now and then even after 7 years of life in SoCal.
Many of our freeways have names (e.g., Santa Monica Freeway, Harbor Freeway, San Diego Freeway) as well as numbers (e.g., 405, 5, 110, 101). A special note – we don’t use the names just the numbers typically, and you MUST use “the” before the number. You would not say "I am taking 110" but "I am taking THE 110." Grammar IS important here.
Those zillions of bumps (i.e., pavement markers) you see, and feel, between the lanes are called Bott’s Dots. OK the sound may be annoying but you know when you are straying across the lines and shouldn’t be.
We have BIG ROADs out here. If you are coming from another large city that may not be such an issue, but 5 - 8 lanes roads in one direction can be daunting for those not used to high-speed roadways. The big interchange in San Diego is where the 805 meets the 5 – a total of 21 lanes of traffic!! There are others near LA that are bigger.
We drive fast out here. No, I wouldn’t say we necessarily drive faster that some other states, but averaging 80+ mph heading down the road with 6+ lanes of traffic can intimidate many drivers. And once you get off the freeway (NOT highway), speed continues.
Speeding and other violations can cost you a pretty penny. Drive in the HOV/Express lanes when you shouldn’t can cost you $341. Yeah, I suspect part of this is an attempt to help pay the budget deficits and deal with road maintenance issues – our DMV-related fees are legend, I have learned. But watch out – the cops are looking for you. Speeding tickets are costly, too. Who wants to go to traffic school?
Signage is pretty good but don’t get fooled by distances. You may be a mile from your exit but if you are 5 lanes to the left getting over may be tough. And sometime there are multiple exit and entrance roads at the same place, so lots of traffic entering and leaving.
Watch for the meter lights. Many entrance ramps are metered during certain hours. You can’t enter the freeway in your lane (there are usually 3 lanes, 1 for HOV) until your meter light turns green. Watch carefully, it happens fast and you don’t want to miss your turn.
Take the 405 north from San Diego to LA. Just before the LA line in Carson check out the Goodyear Blimp parked on the east side. Very Cool.
We televise highway chases by the cops (CHiPS, or California Highway Patrol – remember Eric Estrada and Larry Wilcox?). You will see TV programs preempted by televised high-speed chases by the highway patrol – very exciting. And watch for the occasional cop weaving back and forth across the lanes to slow traffic in the event of an accident, a drunk driver or some other excitement.
And you will run across the occasional border patrol stopping point. Relax, it’s not a big deal. It slows traffic for a bit but you get moving again.
Avoid the freeways and slowdowns at rush hour. Yep, if there are accidents you will also see slowdowns but rush hour (and it is NOT 1 hour) can be the worst. There are a number of traffic reporting websites that will give you up to the minute reports on the traffic patterns.
Want to experience a Southern California freeway? Take a quick tour on the 5 freeway in my area near Carlsbad, CA in the video below.