How to Drive in Sacramento


As a daily commuter in and around Sacramento, I have a lot of experience in the etiquette of the roads. There are a lot of little intricacies that aren’t really well known to anyone except other Sacramento drivers. If you’re a tourist or an out of town visitor and want to fit in, here are a few tips that you can use.

When driving on the free way, which might be one of the first driving endeavors on your way into Sacramento, remember; don’t bother using your turn signal to change lanes. Using your turn signal indicates that you want to change lanes and the other drivers don’t want this to happen. They will speed up so as not to allow you access. You must use ninja skills when merging and do so quickly, and without warning, as soon as there is just enough room for your car plus one arm length.

On the flip side, if you see someone with a turn signal attempting to change lanes on the free way, you should speed up so they cannot merge in front of you because they likely want to cut you off. Allowing someone to merge in front of you is detrimental on Sacramento freeways because that means one more person is in your lane, in front of you, which could potentially slow down your trip and add on up to 3 or 4 seconds to your travel time.

Another tip for freeway driving is the speed limit signs. Most of the maximum speed limit signs say 65MPH. What most tourists don’t know is that these are in fact minimum speed limits, not maximum. To calculate the maximum speed limit on the Sacramento free way, take the minimum posted speed limit (65 in most cases), and add 5MPH, and then add another 5MPH for every lane shift to the left. You will find that most carpool or fast lanes are 80-85MPH zones.

The last tip to know is the usage of carpool lanes. These are archaic and old and no longer apply. The rule used to be that during certain hours, it was required to have at least two people in the car to drive in that lane. Later on they made an addendum so that certain hybrid vehicles could also use the carpool lanes, even if they only had one person. Nowadays though, anything goes. The signs are up there as a subtle reminder of what the freeways used to be like. But the CHP and police no longer seem to have a code for violation of the carpool lane, so, tourists, now you know one of Sacramento’s best kept secrets – the carpool lane is a free for all, any time.

Now, no matter where you are, the age old rule of tailgating is always in effect. If you are unclear on what that is, I will happily explain it to you. If you want the person in front of you to speed up, tailgate them. If you notice someone tailgating you, they want you to speed up. It’s that simple. Keep in mind that all posted speed limits are in fact 5MPH faster than what they say. The county just doesn’t have enough money to replace the signs due to the recent budget problems. So, if you are driving 35MPH in a 35 zone, you are likely being tailgated because you should be going 40MPH. Drivers in Sacramento absolutely hate to be delayed. The one exception to this will be a two lane highway with a solid double yellow line. Odds are you won’t be tailgated if you are driving too slowly. No, the other car will simply go around you, despite the double solid yellow lines indicating not to do so! That’s just how confident our drivers are.

If you've ever been to San Francisco, you have probably heard a ton of horn honking. Once you are in Sacramento, you will notice we are a bit quieter, yet we are just as, if not more impatient. So, how do we deal with slow and problematic drivers if we aren’t mashing our horns all the time? Easy, we drive around them. If you are taking too long to parallel park, or it looks like you are trying to find an address and have slowed down considerably to look at the street numbers, then the other driver will gladly just go around, even if there is oncoming traffic.

The last topic we will discuss for Sacramento driving etiquette is that of stop signs. One big myth about stop signs is that you have to come to a complete stop before you proceed. Another is that the person who got there first has the right of way. The famous “California slide” or “California stop” as some people call it applies to all stop signs in Sacramento. If you are unfamiliar with this driving maneuver, it just means that when you approach a stop sign, you slow down just enough to make sure the intersection is clear before going through it. There is no reason to actually stop, especially if no one is there. I mean, come on, that would add on up to 5 or 6 seconds of a delay in your trip! If there is cross traffic at a four way stop, a big safety tip is to pay attention to their wheels, as the “who goes first” rule is the first person to let off their brake gets to go first. It doesn’t matter if you approached the stop sign before another person or not.

Next time you decide to visit Sacramento, try applying some or all of these rules. Practicing all of these rules will help you blend in as a Sacramento driver and you won’t have to feel like everyone is a jerk since you will now be amongst them! Safe travels and happy driving!

(This article was written purely for humor and is not to be taken seriously. All drivers should drive responsibly, obey the rules of the road and all posted signs)

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