Anyone who has driven on the congested roads in Southern California can attest to the unique driving conditions here in comparison to other parts of the country. Every day, tens of millions of people take to the roads of Southern California, particularly in the metro areas of Orange County and Los Angeles County. Where do most car crashes happen in Southern California, you may ask? A quick review of where you’re most likely to end up in a traffic collision could help you pay extra attention when you’re driving in these areas.
Los Angeles Metro Area
For those driving in Los Angeles, there are a few areas that experience consistent traffic congestion, meaning the areas are often in stop and go traffic, which tends to result in more rear end crashes. Pay attention to on and off ramps, especially those near major freeways like the 110, the 405 Freeway, and the 5 Freeway. Other areas that experience higher than normal rates of crashes include areas where traffic merges to 'exit only' ramps. If you've driven in Southern California for long, you know that instead of waiting in line for their turn to exit on a ramp, many drivers will wait until the last possible second, then cut in front of slowed traffic so they don't miss their exit. This causes many rear end crashes.
Remember that Los Angeles is a hub for travelers, meaning many people are in and out of the city who do not live here and therefore do not become acclimated to the unique driving environment. Because there are so many cars on the road, we must acknowledge that lots of the cars that surround us at any given time are driven by people who may not know where they are going exactly (or which road or exit they're looking to turn onto next), or are uncomfortable with the speed of traffic. This can lead to dangerous situations. We are comfortable with our own driving skills, but it is often the people who surround us on the road who create dangerous circumstances.
If you miss your exit, or are lost, it is best to pull off the freeway to a safe spot in order to gather your thoughts and plan your route. Do not try to keep driving while fiddling with a GPS device or an app on your phone; distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes in Los Angeles, and often results in injury. If you are about to miss your exit, let it happen and move on - forcing your way into traffic, especially during peak hours, can result in danger situations, where you, your passengers, or other drivers may be seriously injured.
Los Angeles can be a difficult place for any driver. It is normal to get lost occasionally, to miss an exit, or to get stuck in frustratingly slow traffic. Fortunately, planning ahead, knowing which part of Los Angeles is experiencing high volumes of traffic at the time your are planning to travel, and adhering to defensive driving techniques can all help you avoid a traffic collision.
Orange County Metro Area
Orange County also has several areas that experience frequent traffic, and these areas have more car crashes than most areas. As is the case in any big city or metropolitan area, the onramps and off ramps of the freeways are areas where car crashes are frequent. Orange County drivers will attest to the predictably bad traffic in a few areas in particular. The 55 Freeway, which connects the 405 Freeway and the 5 Freeway, is almost always stop and go traffic during the day. Additionally, the 55 Freeway has a juncture with the 405 Freeway close to John Wayne Airport, so there is more traffic in that area due to people coming and going to the airport.
The 5 Freeway runs north and south through California, connecting San Diego and Orange County, Los Angeles, all the way up to the northern parts of the state. Thus, there is a lot of commercial traffic on this thoroughfare. Many large semi trucks use the 5 Freeway, and traffic can move at a very fast pace when it isn’t stop and go. This means speeds of 85 miles per hour are not unusual in the left hand lanes of traffic. Average speed, when traffic is moving, is around 80 miles per hour in the left hand lanes and the carpool lane. Many onramps have traffic lights, meaning you must stop and wait for a green signal before merging onto the freeway. Thus, there are cars entering traffic that start at a standstill, or zero miles per hour, that are trying to merge with traffic traveling in excess of 80 miles per hour. This results in many car crashes.
Driving Safely in High Traffic Areas
If you’re not used to driving in heavy traffic, Orange and Los Angeles counties can be an anxious and stressful experience. A few tips may be helpful to remember when you are navigating these areas:
- Anticipate traffic at onramps and off ramps, and proceed through these areas with caution.
- Anticipate traffic near airports. Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Airport are the busiest airports in LA County and Orange County, but there are many other airports that also experience heavy car traffic in these counties as well.
- Remember what hours tend to be “rush hour” traffic hours. Millions of people commute to and from work using the freeways. Mornings from around 6:30 to around 9 a.m. tend to be busy traffic hours; evenings from 4 p.m. to around 7 p.m. tend to experience high volumes of traffic throughout California metropolitan areas.
- Stop and go traffic is part of life in California. Give yourself plenty of space, and don’t be in a rush.
- Wear your seatbelt at all times, even if you think you’re driving too slowly to be injured. Just because you’re driving slow doesn’t mean someone won’t rear end you at a high rate of speed, a crash that can result in severe injury.
- Know where you’re going before you get in the car. If you need to use a navigation aid on your phone, set the address prior to starting your drive. Trying to drive in heavy traffic is stressful enough, and adding the task of entering addresses into your phone can distract you. If the device is already set to give you directions before you embark on your journey, you are less likely to be distracted, and therefore are less likely to be involved in a car crash.
- Plan ahead. Leaving half an hour early can sometimes mean saving yourself from sitting in traffic for hours. This is especially true when you are trying to arrive at your destination during or around rush hour traffic. If you can, it is often worth it to drive to your destination early in order to avoid heavy Los Angeles or Costa Mesa commuter traffic.
- Check traffic apps before starting your drive to make sure there are no road closures or car crashes that are obstructing traffic. Whatever your choice of app, many apps can help you predict where the worst traffic is likely to be so you can avoid areas of extreme or abnormal congestion. Many radio stations will also give live updates on traffic conditions during rush hour so you can avoid car crashes, which often result in road closures, or the number of lanes being reduced.
Know the Area You’re Heading To
If you’re driving to a destination that is new to you, familiarize yourself with the area ahead of time. This means looking at a map of the area, or using Google to get some insight into what kinds f area you’re driving to. Are there schools or major shopping areas nearby that will result in high traffic? Is the neighborhood you’re heading to a place where there are lots of office towers, meaning that around rush hour there will likely be a lot of people coming and going from the area? Is the area perhaps more rural, such that facilities such as gasoline stations may be few and far between? Is there road construction happening on your route, or are parts your journey experiencing a detour due to any number of reasons? Are there any natural disasters, such as wildfires, that are restricting traffic, or making driving through the region either impossible, or on an “as necessary only” basis? All these questions can likely be answered by spending just a few minutes on the internet prior to getting in your car. Knowing more about your destination will result in your ability to avoid areas that will slow you down. It will also ensure you take a route that is likely to have less traffic, meaning you’re less likely to be involved in a car crash.