How to Drive in California, USA/Printable version

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How to Drive in California, USA

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at,_USA

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Four-way stops

In California, especially the southern part, which this guide refers to, they have these things called Stop signs. They are Red. They are Octagon in shape. For those in Reseda, (yes I stole this from Rush) that means there are eight sides to them.

Ok, you may have heard the Term "California Stop". By the police, highway patrol, sheriff, and any other Law enforcement agency that would be in the vicinity when one of these is performed (basically it is rolling through a stop sign with out stopping) this is illegal. Stop doing this if you frequent such actions. Your wheels need to actually come to a stop, no forward motion, still, not moving. Stopped. Then, after it is clear, you may proceed.

When you come to an intersection with a stop sign and you have actually stopped, you then want to make sure that it is in fact safe to proceed. This usually means that you are entering into an intersection. This means that other vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles may be entering into the intersection. You are stopped (hopefully), look around you and see what is going on. If there are not an other vehicles, bikes, kitty cats, what have you entering the Intersection, Proceed carefully through the Intersection. I realize that for some of you, this means to romp on the gas pedal as hard as you can. You paid for the gas. (Presently over $3.30 a gallon for the cheap stuff). Go for it.

Now it gets tricky when you come to an intersection with more than 1 stop sign. Let's try 2 stop signs. You come to your stop sign. You stop. You see another stop sign to your right. You go ahead and go and the car at the other stop sign hits you in the side. What! you exclaim as you come out of your car to inspect the damage to the passenger side of your car. The other driver is really upset and is threatening you with bodily harm. You stopped, you went, what was the problem?

In California, the person to your right has the right of way. For those of you in Reseda, the passenger side of your car, the person who is not driving in California, that is the right. If you see someone at that side of your car at a stop sign and they were there before you, they have the right away. They get to go first! Now if they show up after you at the intersection, they may still go ahead of you through the Intersection. It's ok. You will survive this ordeal. It is better not to push the issue of who got there first with the front bumper of your car. Let them go. The right of way thing is a bit tricky at times, especially when dealing with those that insist they are right.

But the title of this part is 4 way stops? I'm getting there. You see, there can be a lot of different combinations with stop signs before you get to the biggie - the 4 way stop. The main thing to remember other than be careful, is to remember about right of way and who has it. If you're not sure, wait for the other car to go, especially if they are to your right.

The 4 way stop. Why this is so difficult for so many people I do not know. Especially when you introduce more than one traffic lane in each direction and you add a left turn lane to each direction. Granted, there may be 12 cars, all stopped, all wanting to go and the idiot that should be going isn't. They are talking on their cell phone, they are putting on make up, they are doing any thing other than what they Should be doing and that is paying attention! The person to the right has the right of way. Simple. The person that gets to the intersection first on the right has the right of way. Simple. Gee, if you get there the same time as every one of those other cars ... Be very very careful. But if any of those other drivers get there after you and they are on your left, guess what? You have the right away and may proceed after your wheels have fully stopped.

Now, one thing you have to watch out for in Southern California Driving around stop signs is those that cheat. I am not talking about those to the left of you that think they have the right away. I am talking of those fools, that's right, fools that insist on stopping 20 feet back from the limit line and consider themselves stopped. For you in Reseda, the limit line is the white line going across the intersection that stops about halfway through, right by the stop sign. You, being the careful driver that you are, have come all the way to the limit line. This other car has stopped before you on the left, but they are still 15 to 20 feet from the limit line. They think that is good enough, and proceed on through just about the time you decide you have the right away, because you ARE on the right.


I guess what you have to be at times like this is part mind reader. After a few times of this bizarre, and I will even call it illegal behavior is to hope you realize what is going on and know how to react. Nobody said that Driving in Southern California doesn't have its very scary moments.

Another aspect of stop lights (I truly hope I don't need to explain the use of stop lights - Green equals GO, Red equals STOP (just like at a stop sign) and yellow means Caution) that I have noticed lately is the fact that some folk insist on stopping many feet behind the limit line or the crosswalk. At some larger or newer stoplights there is a sensor planted below the asphalt that tells the stop light when a car is waiting to go through the intersection. You pull all the way up to the first white line, the sensor and the stop light know you are there and patiently waiting for the green light. If you don't do this, you and the cars behind you may be stuck there awhile.

Also, when stop lights are not working properly, (Flashing RED or not working at all) treat them as a stop sign.

Passing other cars[edit | edit source]

Ok, this is a fun topic. On freeways, if you find yourself getting passed by other cars and trucks, pull over to the right hand lane. You, believe it or not, are actually going slower than the flow of traffic and really need to get out of the way of faster traffic. Passing on freeways is, uhm, well, lets say interesting. For sure, you may get passed on the left or the right hand side. Hopefully you are using your mirrors and are aware of the vehicle that wants to pass you. Hopefully, they are using their turn signals on their vehicle (good luck with this). Usually, you will not get this warning feature. And sometimes the speed of the vehicle coming up on you is so fast that you may not see the vehicle till they are along side of you passing you. They have come from behind another vehicle, or have just come out of the distance to pass you unobserved. Is this a safe way to drive? Hardly, but people still insist on this as a mode of getting from point A to point B.

On other roads, say a two lane country road, there are other factors you need to worry about as you try to pass someone.

Number 1) - Is the Yellow line on the road broken on your side? If it is solid, you are legally not supposed to pass. Why, you might ask? The engineers that built the road are figuring that there is good reason for you not to be trying to pass a vehicle right then, like a blind curve up ahead, a rise in the road, or a hill.

Number 2) - Can you pass the vehicle in time? You really need to be sure and try and finish your pass before your side of the yellow line goes solid again. Isn't driving a blast? It really helps to have vast amounts of horsepower on country two lane roads and trying to pass. Once you get on the other side of the yellow line, once you travel into oncoming traffic, speed is essential. Granted there is the speed limit, but however you should have this in consideration before attempting your pass. Once you get into the oncoming traffic lane, you are in some very dangerous territory. You definitely want to safely get back into your lane as soon as possible.

Passing in the city[edit | edit source]

Passing in the city is another matter. You don't have to usually worry about broken or solid yellow lines, for you are going to see white lines for the most part. You also have traffic signs you have to pay attention to. Stop lights, traffic, pedestrians, signs along the road, distractions and noise by the boatload in places. This is where you really need to be paying attention. People stopping, some illegally, people turning and passing you, horns honking, stereo's blazing - not a calm environment at all. Sometimes you have to pass in a split second. You really must be aware of all that is around you at all times. You have to pay attention to where you are in relation to turns and intersections and many other things. At times, especially in big cities, you will have bumper to bumper traffic to consider as well. You may need to plan some three or four intersections ahead to get where you want to go and how you will pass or change lanes.

Turning right at red lights

In California, it is legal to make right turns at red lights as long as you have stopped before making that turn and there aren't cars, or pedestrians in the way.