The Freedom Freeways Bring Us

Most people have a love-hate relationship with freeways.  We love them when they’re not clogged by rush hour traffic because a freeway lets us get from point A to point B at a relatively fast pace – driving the speed limit, of course.  We love freeways because they keep us out of the stop and go grind of city traffic.

However, with the good comes the bad.  Traffic is tough and Los Angeles is a perfect example.  Los Angeles ranks no. 1 in traffic jams in the U.S. according to INRIX, a leading provider of traffic services, and is home to more cars per capita (roughly 1.8 cars per household) than any other metropolitan area in the U.S.  Los Angeles does have plenty of miles of road, however, 915 freeway miles to be exact.

The freeway system was born in 1940 when Los Angeles’ SR-110 (Arroyo Seco Parkway) was built to connect downtown to Pasadena.  It was the beginning of a transportation revolution that transformed cities and allowed people to live long distances from where they worked. Nobody could have imagined the traffic explosion we see today, however, and those benefits we saw more than 70 years ago have all but disappeared for many drivers who brave modern day freeways.

Today, many of our freeways are choked with bumper to bumper traffic for large portions of the day and transportation professionals are struggling to find ways to unlock the gridlock. One solution that is starting to gain some traction is HOT – High Occupancy Toll lanes.

CALTRANS has launched HOT lanes in LA County, which enable drivers to pay a fee to use special lanes to reduce congestion, and these express lanes average speeds of 64 mph versus 48 mph for the general purpose lanes.

Another innovative program designed by CALTRANS to aid drivers is Real Time Traffic conditions.  Commuters get up-to-the-minute traffic reports for freeways, including speeds and which lanes are affected by accidents.

While these new programs won’t eliminate traffic, it may help improve the drive. And speaking of improved drives, here are some helpful tips to help you get to your destination quickly and safely:

  • Make sure your vehicle is road ready.  Check your tires, fluids and be sure your insurance coverage is in order.  Mercury Insurance recommends that drivers review policy limits at least twice a year or when adding vehicles or drivers to your household.
  • Plan ahead.  Go to Google Maps to plot your route and get a recommendation for travel time.
  • Use traffic condition websites to scout your route and modify your plans before you leave.
  • Avoid rush hour.  Freeway traffic is typically heaviest on weekdays from 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. ,and if you’re in Los Angeles, Fridays are the busiest days.
  • Car pool whenever possible.  Travel time to your destination improves when using the High Occupancy Vehicle lane.
  • Merge onto the freeway using your turn signal and accelerate to match the flow of traffic.
  • Gauge distance and give yourself enough stopping time. When on the freeway, be sure to keep enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.  A good rule of thumb: Keep at least one car length of distance in front of you for every ten miles of speed.
  • 10 and 2.  Your hands that is.  Stay in an attentive, ready position and keep your eyes on the road in front of you.  Never text and drive.  Not sure you can fully commit to putting the phone down?  Then you should see these staggering statistics about texting while driving.
  • Keep your cool.  Road rage is dangerous and can lead to an accident.  Mercury wants you to be safe and stay safe.

Los Angeles County Freeway Fun Facts:

  • L.A. residents on average have 1.8 cars per household
  • L.A. County is home to the country’s oldest freeway, the SR-110
  • The newest freeway is a section of the I-210, built in 2007, now connects to the I-215
  • L.A. County is 4,752 square miles with 915 miles of freeway
  • The I-405 has 14 lanes in a stretch between Long Beach and Santa Ana, most in L.A.
  • The SR-2 has the least amount of lanes, 2
  • L.A.’s freeway system was first planned in 1947
  • Only three-fifths of L.A.’s 1959 freeway master plan was actually developed
  • On average, 100 million vehicle miles are traveled each day (equivalent of 4,000 trips around the globe)
  • L.A. County has 42 freeways and highways