Fuel for Thought

Driving in California

By Greg Huggins
Posted May 29th 2022 9:13AM

Things I noticed driving in California 

If you plan to drive in California, here are a few tips to help you out. You may have driven in all the other states, but these few tips may help you keep your sanity when driving on the left coast. Well, they may not do that, but you could at least be expecting some of these road hazards.

Apparently, the left lane of all highways and interstates in California are designated for cars. You may notice that on any given four lane (or any multi-lane road) highway, cars will drive in the left lane from their on ramp to their off ramp. It seems that if you are in a car in Oregon, once you cross the CA state line, you are supposed to enter the left lane and remain there until you reach the border crossing at Mexico. This rule also applies to going north, east or west on any highway. Keep in mind, this is a cars only lane, but don’t worry, should you forget (or happen to find an open spot in the left lane to pass another vehicle) the cars will remind you of your place in the right lane.

Speaking of on and off ramps, apparently in California, those already on the main highway are supposed to merge with those entering from on ramps. This is especially true for trucks. It seems that driver’s education teaches Californians that all trucks will slow for them when merging, so there is no need to look or even attempt to match the speed of anyone in the travel lanes. My opinion is to treat cars entering from on ramps as you would a herd of deer near the road - expect any one of them to run out on the road without a thought to anything else. Does anyone make a car whistle to deter them from running out in front of trucks?

Also, along most interstates, there are shoulders on the right side for emergency parking. These are quite handy when mechanical issues arise with your vehicle. It gives you a safe place to pull off the road and perform emergency repairs or to call for assistance. Should you be able to make the repair on the shoulder, you can then use the shoulder to increase your speed and then merge back onto the highway when it is safe to do so. However, in California, it has become obvious that many tractor trailers go from hazard lights on the shoulder to their left turn signal and immediately pull into the lane of traffic, regardless of traffic conditions or speed. So if you have to use the shoulder of a 70 MPH interstate in California, just know that you can go directly back into the lane of traffic at 5 MPH and you don’t even have to give any thought to who might be coming down the road at 65 - 70 MPH.

Oh another thing about the shoulder of the road, if two vehicles are slowly passing each other in the right and left lanes of the highway, it must be a legal California maneuver to use the right shoulder to pass them both (it happens quite frequently). Also, any left turn lane can apparently be used for cars to pass well. Keep an eye in your mirrors at all times.

California has a split speed limit, trucks (3 axles or more) or any vehicle with something in tow has a speed limit of 55 MPH on highways and interstates. Cars have a speed limit of 70 MPH on the same roads. Be mindful of your speed when driving in CA. If you actually see a truck going 55 MPH, there is probably highway patrol nearby. 

See you down the road,