It’s a peculiar thing, driving in LA. When you are traveling at speeds of 65 or more there isn’t much room for error. Every bump, every burst tire, every errant sneeze, threatens to be your last. The outcomes of these events are amplified with each additional tens of miles per hour. At times the traffic can get moving as fast as 80. Apologies to people in normal countries for not doing the conversions. Know that it is very fast.
You would think that at these great speeds with death or incredible bodily harm all but certain that people would drive safely. Or at least cautiously if for no other reason than paranoia. Limbs are hard to come by, losing one or more is an incredible inconvenience. I know personally I’ve grown very attached to mine.
But this is not the case. The motorists in this area drive in the most peculiar fashion. It follows the Pareto Principle as much as anything else. 1 in 5 motorists at any glance is driving extremely dangerous. Swerving, tail gating, switching lanes rapidly without a turn signal, etc. But the deviations from this are not quite good either. Those not driving extremely dangerously at still driving at least unsafely.
The carpool lane is supposed to be closed whenever the double white lines are present. Unfortunately some people use it as a passing lane anytime they wish. This creates extremely unsafe situations but is not actually what I was going to talk about. For me the scariest moments are when you pass the open areas. Whenever these are present in traffic they create an area I call “The Corridor of Death”. Sounds hyperbolic, but it barely is, if at all.
What is so dangerous about this area in traffic? Well, it only takes one. If all highway lanes are stopped but the carpool lane is moving at speed it begins to draw eyes. Those eyes are hungry, hungrier than the brains that control them are wise. They’ll bolt out into the carpool lane without a second glance at incoming vehicles at a speed three to four times slower than the traffic moving by. This always takes the carpoolers by surprise because said person almost never uses a turn signal to even hint that they had such plans in the first place.
Breaks are challenged in a very tight space with parked cars on the right and high solid concrete walls on the left. Your options are slim and worse still the odds are good that the person that nearly killed you is alone. Their life and time is much more important than literally everyone else’s.
I am not alone in noticing this danger. You will on occasion notice the speed of the carpool lane drop between 10 and 20 miles per hour seemingly at random. But it isn’t, people are reacting to the fear that that open space creates. They’ve seen the traffic to their right and they know that they need every mile per hour they can muster to survive that one person.
Because it only takes one. Every four-hour long traffic jam that has ever consumed your sanity was sparked by the actions of a single person. They might have had help, much like a smoker tossing their cigarette into a dry bush was helped along by the drought. But the ensuing wildfire still began because of the actions of one.
And so we commute. Knowing that ultimately our survival is a numbers game. One that even the most defensive of driving will likely not curtail for long.