A Survival Guide for Driving on the Freeway in California

by Staff | June 13th, 2022

California traffic can be crazy, and driving on the freeway may seem overwhelming if you’re a new driver or usually drive in another state. Traveling at high speeds or in congested traffic increases your risk of being involved in an accident.

You should follow all driving safety rules, like always wearing seat belts. Learn some other essential tips to make your drive on California’s freeways less intimidating.

Emergency Preparedness

Being prepared for emergencies decreases your anxiety if an emergency arises. Having a first aid kit, tools to fix a minor breakdown, and a way to contact your roadside assistance service takes care of many freeway problems.

First-aid kit

Your vehicle’s first-aid kit should contain items specific to you and your passengers, including pressure bandages and gauze to stop bleeding, pain reliever medications, antibiotic medication, and antihistamines.

Breakdown kit

Include tools to change a flat tire and make minor repairs like a jack and socket wrench and jumper cables in case your battery goes flat. You should also include flares or reflective markers and a Hi-Vis vest to increase other drivers’ ability to see you.

Roadside assistance phone number

If you have roadside assistance service through your insurance or a credit card, make sure you have the number programmed in your phone and that your phone is charged.

In the event of an emergency on the freeway, try to make it to an exit or rest area before exiting your vehicle. If this isn’t possible, pull off to the right side of the road, as far from lanes of traffic as you can, especially if you have a flat driver-side tire.

If you need help with a situation but don’t have roadside assistance, dial 511 and say “freeway assist” when prompted.

Rules of the Road

Responsible drivers know all the laws that apply to the roads that they drive on. These rules cover everything from speed to which lane you should use.

Keep right

The law requires slower vehicles to keep to the right-hand lanes. That means you should only change lanes to pass a slower vehicle in front of you. If you are in the left-hand lane and a car approaches you from behind, move to the right-hand lane to let them pass.

Make safe lane changes

When changing lanes, always use your turn signals so other drivers know what to expect from you. Only change to the lane next to you instead of switching multiple lanes. Never speed up to change lanes or cut anyone off. Never change lanes over a solid line. Always check each blind spot before changing lanes.

Follow the speed limit

The speed limit on most freeways in California is 65 mph, but it is 70 mph in some areas. Driver speeds are monitored from airplanes and helicopters that radio patrol cars and, in some regions, by cameras.

Driving faster than the speed limit or weather conditions allow increases your chances of causing an accident. Speeding also increases the time and distance it takes to stop your vehicle. If someone stops short in front of you, you are more likely to hit them while speeding.

Speeding increases your risk of losing control of your vehicle while swerving to avoid a road hazard, for example. Highway speeds make correcting mistakes more difficult and reduce your margin for error, and exceeding the speed limit magnifies the problem.

Avoid distractions

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents in California, accounting for 8.7% of traffic deaths in 2019. California outlawed talking on a cell phone to combat the problem unless the driver uses a hands-free device. Texting while driving is strictly prohibited.

Other distractions that you should eliminate or minimize include eating, changing radio stations, and applying makeup. Distractions can impair your response time more than driving under the influence of alcohol.

A 2008 Research Transport Laboratory study found that drivers talking on a handsfree or handheld device had relative reaction times of 26.5% and 45.9% higher than non-distracted drivers, compared with just 12.4% of drivers at the legal alcohol limit.

Routes and Traffic

Planning your trip helps prevent anxiety about freeway driving. You should know the number and road name of the exit you need to take and pay attention to road signs on your route. Keep a road atlas in your car or use a good cell phone mapping app if you miss your exit or road construction causes a detour.

Planning your trip to avoid congested traffic reduces your risk of being in an accident. Avoid rush hour or times when sporting events or concerts are close to ending. If you can’t avoid times when you expect congested traffic, allow for extra time to get to your destination.

Even when you do everything right, accidents still happen. Hiring a personal injury attorney will protect your rights.

Get a Free Consultation if You’ve Been Involved in a Car Accident

If you’ve been injured in a freeway crash caused by another driver, contact the California car accident lawyers at Berg Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation. We will fight for your right to be compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.