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Driving in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles Traffic Laws
Blocked Intersection

You can get a ticket in Los Angeles for blocking an intersection while stopped in traffic.

Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, used with permission
Photo Red Light Enforcement - some traffic signals in LA cities have been rigged with red light cameras that take a photo of the front of a car, showing the license plate and driver, if the car enters the intersection after the light has turned red. So even if you don't see a police officer nearby, you could end up with a traffic ticket for running a red light.

Right on Red - You may turn right on red after coming to a full stop if the road is clear and there are no posted signs to the contrary. A red turn arrow in the traffic signal, a posted sign of a right turn arrow with a red line through it or the words No Turn On Red are good indications you shouldn't turn on red.

Passing on the Right - In addition to passing on the left (standard with faster lanes being to the left), it is legal to pass on the right on multi-lane LA freeways.

Slower Traffic Keep Right (or Middle) - While maintaining that you shouldn't drive over the speed limit, even the California Driver Handbook states "If you choose to drive slower than other traffic, do not drive in the “Number 1” (fast) lane. (See page 33.) When traveling below the speed limit always move to the right when another driver is close behind you and wishes to drive faster, unless you are already in the extreme right lane."

U-turns are allowed at intersections unless otherwise marked. On low traffic roads, U-turns are generally allowed anywhere, as long as there is not a solid yellow line down the road and the view of traffic is not blocked.

Flashing Traffic Lights - if a red light is flashing at an intersection, treat it as a stop sign. If the light is flashing yellow, you should slow down and watch for opposing traffic.

Broken Traffic Lights - if you get to an intersection and the traffic signal is not working, you should treat it as an all-directions stop sign and take turns.

Don't Block Intersections - in slow-moving traffic on surface streets, don't move forward into an intersection unless you are sure you can clear it or you can get a ticket. This is a favorite reason for dishing out traffic tickets on LA surface streets. When traffic is inching along, it's easy to find yourself blocking smaller side streets.

Pedestrians have the right of way at any intersection, whether marked as a crosswalk or unmarked (an implied crosswalk). At a marked crosswalk, drivers are required to stop for waiting pedestrians. At an unmarked crosswalk, pedestrians are supposed to wait for a break in traffic. Pedestrians may get a ticket for crossing against the light or in the middle of a block, but you'll still be the one in the wrong if you hit them, so keep an eye out for jaywalkers.

Traffic Meters - At freeway on-ramps in high-traffic areas, which is almost everywhere in LA, there are red/green traffic signals to regulate the flow of traffic onto the freeway. Often there is a separate carpool (HOV) lane on the on-ramp that does not have to stop. Specific rules for each meter are posted. It may be one car per green light or three cars per green light, for example. The meters only operate in heavy traffic, but running a red light on a traffic meter has the same or greater penalty as running a red light on surface streets.

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