In the summer of 2021, we began asking readers to do so send us your urgent questions via Los Angeles and California.
Every few weeks we put the voting questions and ask the readers to decide which question we answer in the form of a story.
Our latest winner was submitted by Felipe Delerme. His question: “Why do drivers in LA refuse to turn their turn signals? In every capacity.”
I laughed when I came across Delerme’s question – maybe you’ll nod your head knowingly, too. It’s obviously an exaggeration, but there’s more than a grain of truth to the question. If you spend a day cruising around Los Angeles, chances are you’ll notice several fellow riders dashing from lane to lane without a signal.
“What we often see here in LA is that people don’t blink when they’re changing lanes, or they’re literally blinking at the very last minute when they’re changing lanes, or they don’t even bother to look over their shoulder.” to look if there might be another driver next to them,” said Joshua Mendoza, an instructor at Melrose Driving School in Hollywood.
An obvious reason for this habit? “They are in such a hurry to get from point A to point B,” Mendoza said.
“If you follow the rule from the DMV manual, there is a set distance from your turn where you should activate your turn signal,” said Daniel Mitchell, LADOT’s chief engineer. “But we do know that as soon as you use the turn signal to change lanes, the spot that was there for you suddenly disappears because the person behind accelerates when they see your turn signal.”
“I have three boys of driving age, and as I taught them, when you’re changing lanes, only turn on your turn signal if you already know what you’re going to do, so you can let other people know about it,” he continued.
But breaking the rules when it comes to turn signals isn’t the only driving habit in LA, is it?
we asked about it via Twitter other quirks of LA driving and received, well, a variety of answers.
But before I go any further, this story is absolutely not an endorsement of reckless driving that endangers people’s lives. Fatal car accidents happen again and again. Please be safe out there.
“Driving slowly in the fast lane is the S—”, said a Twitter user. (I see this quite often, but my editor, who is from Miami, disagrees, saying this habit is a lot more “Florida” than “California.”)
“If you suddenly get caught in the middle of a televised car chase, text a friend so they can add you to the news,” another answered. (Yes, TV car chases are very LA, sadly, as is texting and driving — but please, not both.)
“Tailgate even without traffic” said one respondent.
Abraham Polanco, co-owner of the A1 Driving and Traffic School near Culver City, agreed that tailgating is common in LA. ” he said.
One of the most basic driving habits in LA: When you’re at a busy intersection and cars are lining up to make a left turn, you usually see a few cars grab the intersection and make a turn after the light turns red.
Mendoza says he’s noticed an increasing number of drivers doing this over the past year. “I literally saw three cars at an intersection, maybe even four cars” trying to turn left after the traffic light, he said.
Why all the risk with left turns? Polanco suggests it could be the lack of protected left turns at many LA intersections. “They don’t have as many sheltered left turns as in the suburbs,” said Polanco, who lives in Orange County. “That’s why you’re going to have some aggressive driving.”
Rolling stops are another driving practice that Mendoza frequently notices. “Everyone knows that you have to stop completely at a stop sign or a red light,” he said. “But many drivers don’t really come to a stop.”
At an intersection, “you see people literally stopping in the middle of the crosswalk, even if a pedestrian is walking towards them, because they really want to turn as quickly as possible,” Mendoza said.
In his view, “that’s the number one thing LA drivers need to fix.”
There seems to be a theme here: LA drivers are in a hurry, in part due to the amount of time they spend stuck in traffic. They try to make up that time by bending the rules of the road to speed up their journey.
It makes sense; After all, who hasn’t run through a yellow light while being late for work? Many Angelenos juggle multiple jobs and time-consuming family responsibilities while trying to manage the headache of driving in LA. While the city’s overwhelming traffic doesn’t make driving violations any less dangerous, it does help explain them.
On a positive note, Mendoza notes that LA drivers are more considerate of children, the elderly and other vulnerable members of society compared to drivers in other cities. “People have 100% the utmost respect when they see kids walking across crosswalks or sidewalks or driving past school zones,” he said.
Another good driving habit, according to Mendoza: “People are definitely more reluctant to use their horns” compared to drivers in other cities.
However, drivers still have a long way to go when it comes to interacting with cyclists on the road, Mendoza said. “What still needs improvement for many LA drivers is that when they’re ready to make a right turn at an intersection, they don’t bother checking their blind spot or side mirror.”
In such cases, a rider could cut off a cyclist who is pedaling near him – or collide directly with the cyclist as he turns.
The need for speed is perhaps LA’s most conspicuous driving habit — one that comes at a steep price.
Even people who intend to obey the speed limit could always drive faster on the road, Mendoza said. Especially in rush hour, “if someone can’t keep up, that’s the way it is [other drivers] really upset,” he said.
Over the years, Angelenos’ penchant for driving fast has actually resulted in higher speed limits through a process known as “speed creep”.
“We set speed limits by measuring how fast drivers are going and then use that as a guide to setting the speed limit,” Mitchell said. Speed crawling is “the idea that over time, people are going a little over the stated limit…then, [after conducting the required speed surveys]we increase the speed limit and they drive a little faster.”
The cycle continued, speed limits kept getting higher and people drove faster and faster. (Now, with the consent of Assembly Law 43, the speed creep cycle is coming to an end, Mitchell said. Prior to its passage, LA had to increase the speed limit based on speed survey results to enforce the posted speed limit.)
The consequences of exceeding the speed limit can be fatal. “When drivers drive faster, it makes the impact of accidents much more severe, and that results in people being seriously injured or killed,” Mitchell said. “We’ve had a dramatic increase in the number of people seriously injured and killed over the past year.”
Traffic accidents killed 294 people in LA last year, city officials said, a significant increase from 2020.
Mitchell encourages LA drivers to think about driving the same way they think about operating a shopping cart.
“If you go to the grocery store you wouldn’t try to push past anyone, you would hopefully be polite and thoughtful,” he said. “We ask people to be considerate and respectful of others while driving.”
What driving habits in LA do you notice all the time? Leave a comment below.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-18/no-turn-signals-but-also-no-honking-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-l-a-driving No turn signals but no honk: the hallmarks of LA motoring