Driving Speed in Los Angeles

On various vehicle forums I read about how in Southern California one must drive 80 MPH to avoid being run off the freeway. I am pretty sure this is not true as I almost always have my radar adaptive cruise control set to 65 MPH posted speed limit and poke along in one of the right hand (slow) lanes. And I haven’t been run off the road yet. Or even been subjected to road rage.

But I thought I’d try an experiment: See how much real life difference it makes trying to go faster. On a recent Saturday afternoon we were traveling through the Los Angeles megalopolis and I thought I’d set the cruise control to 10 over the official limit. Then I’d manage which lane I was in to achieve that speed, without blocking traffic, for as much of the trip as possible. This is not quite as aggressive driving as some might try as the adaptive cruise control won’t tail gate.

I pulled the dash cam videos for the section from around Ortega Highway in south Orange County to Magic Mountain Parkway on the north side of Los Angeles. I extracted the GPS data from those videos, pulled them in to a spreadsheet and played around a little. Here are some results:

Total Distance87.9 miles
Actual Time1:48 hours
Minimum Speed0 MPH
Maximum Speed79 MPH
Average Speed49 MPH
Time If Maximum Speed limited to 65 MPH1:51 Hours
Time Saved by Speeding3.2 Minutes

If there were no congestion then, ignoring a few 55 MPH zones, the trip could be made about 27 minutes faster than our actual time. I suppose that there are some times when that can happen in the LA area. Maybe 2 AM on a Sunday. But basically the time for this non-rush hour trip is dominated by congestion and the little bit of time you make up by exceeding the speed limit when that is possible is not all that great.

I would rather not try this during rush hour but suspect the results would be the same: Congestion dominates and the few seconds saved by driving as fast as physically possible doesn’t make any real difference on your total travel time.

Might as well stay to the right going the speed limit letting the aggressive drivers duke it out in the left lanes and arrive at your destination far less frazzled.