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Nine Types of L.A. Drivers That Make L.A. One of the World’s Worst Cities to Drive In

12:07 PM PDT on April 16, 2021

[dropcap size=big]P[/dropcap]eople everywhere think their city’s drivers are the worst. You certainly hear that claim here in Los Angeles. In my experience, though, drivers in Los Angeles are perfectly average. Sure, you like running red lights, forget how to drive when water falls out of the sky, smash through unprotected crosswalks, and honk your horn as if it is an extension of your own voice, but you also stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and usually use your turn signals.

Not. 

I commuted from Inglewood to Burbank on a small motor-scooter with an undersized single-stroke engine for several months. This gave me at least two hours a day to observe and reflect on which drivers were the most likely to kill me as I zipped 18 miles up and down Western Avenue (and beyond). That reflection evolved into this taxonomy you are about to read.

Before we get started, I have two disclaimers. 

First, take all this with a grain of salt. It’s written with the arrogance of a person who rides mass transit by choice and has decided not to talk about the accident in which he totaled his beloved scooter.

And second, remember that this is a taxonomy, not a ranking from worst to best.

With that said, here’s a taxonomy of bad L.A. drivers.

Extreme Performance

I know I said this isn’t a ranking, but these are the worst drivers in L.A. The people who drive stupidly expensive, fast, and showy performance cars. These are people whose car purchases are an act of class warfare against the rest of the city. They are the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati drivers, people dumb enough to spend $100K on a car that goes 180 miles per hour in a city where you’re likely to drive under 30 miles per hour for your entire commute. The worst part is that they will drive these luxury vehicles as recklessly as possible in between those couple of hundred feet between red lights or bumper-to-bumper traffic. I guess they think the huddled masses will be so awed by their fabulous wealth and potential speed that we all just pull over to watch them roar past.

Performance Lite

These are a tier down from the extreme performance cars in terms of cost and ostentation, but the mentality and aggression are the same. Think your Porsches and certain Audi and BMW drivers. At the same time, there are some Angelenos who genuinely purchase these luxury vehicles for their excellent design and notoriously quiet, buttery engines. Most Performance Lite drivers impatiently wait for you to get the hell out of their way. They are also the most likely to cut you off out of nowhere. 

Luxury Pickup Trucks

Driving up and down Western every day, I passed a lot of pickup trucks. Most of these are regular pickups used for work by ordinary people: contractors, roofers, landscapers, and others. These pickups are fine—good, even. Not OK or good are the $75K F-150s or the lifted Dodge Masturbators, the trucks driven by people (usually men) who want to hide their love for luxury within a performative shell of mythical American ruggedness. These guys definitely have a Silver Oak “Life’s a Cabernet” license plate holder on their second car back in the garage in Thousand Oaks. Their trucks are the automotive version of Ted Cruz’s boots: luxurious, impractical, and phony as hell. And they tend to drive aggressively, almost to the point of violence.

American Muscle

Even before Dodge Challengers became associated with murderous conservatism, driving a car like this signaled a certain kind of choice. Sure, you may see a driver in a mid-2000s Mustang driving perfectly well. But just as often, you'll see their counterparts roaring their engines as soon as the light turns green at the 10 overpass, winning the 20-foot race to the traffic backed up at the other side of the overpass.

Teslas

Newer to the market than the other vehicles in this list, Tesla drivers haven’t quite settled on a single, unified on-street personality. Sometimes they have the aggression and recklessness of the Extreme Performance drivers—Teslas can run $80K or more, after all, so Tesla drivers have plenty in common with those other jerkwads. Others just have the quotidian aggressiveness of Performance Lite drivers. And still others, sure, seem actually to be reasonably sound and safe drivers. These disparate types of drivers have one thing in common: They are people who don’t want their environmentalism to get in the way of their accumulation of massive personal wealth. Proudly convinced that they’re saving the world by giving Elon Musk their money, they are unburdened by the idea that rampant consumerism and environmental destruction go hand-in-hand. They could have bought a Nissan Leaf and given the other $50K to wetland restoration or wildfire prevention or ocean cleanup, but no: they purchased a Tesla, so they did enough. They’re assholes.

Black BMW Sedans

I have no quarrel with the drivers of silver BMWs. They seem to be fine. But black BMWs, once thought of as a subcategory of Performance Lite, have proven themselves to be a unique category of a bad driver. According to the license plate holders, there are two sub-genera here: BMWs purchased at Beverly Hills BMW (WORLD FAMOUS, according to the license plate holders), and BMWs from Calabasas). It is an open question which subgenus of the driver is worse.

Minivans

Most of the bad drivers in this taxonomy are rich people who drive rich-people cars. That makes sense. Spending your money on rich people-things is a sign of selfishness, and selfish people tend to be inconsiderate drivers! But there’s another type of bad L.A. driver that I feel terrible having to classify here: the stressed, overworked, underpaid parent. I’m sure there are many minivans in L.A. driven by people who are not parents, but they all drive like they almost forgot to pick up their kids from soccer practice. I tend to excuse their impaired driving, but that does not excuse them from this taxonomy.

Kids on Scooters

“But people on those scooters aren’t drivers,” says a straw man immediately before I tear him down. They’re certainly not pedestrians, either! When you see a kid on one of these (or, often, a pair of pre-teen lovebirds sharing one), you know you need to keep a careful eye out. Erratic behavior, like a fall or an abrupt turn into the street, is coming. The problem with Bird/Lyft/Jump/etc. Scooters are too involved for this taxonomy, and most of the problems with them begin long before a careless or clueless rider gets on one. Thankfully these things are less prevalent than they used to be.

Normal Cars for Normal People

There are so many cars in Los Angeles, and most of them are normal cars: Fords and Nissans and Priuses and Hyundai Sonatas. Good lord, so many Hyundai Sonatas. (Seriously: After reading this, you’re going to start noticing Sonatas everywhere.) Normal people drive these normal cars, and normal people are imperfect. Some of these imperfect people are, in fact, imperfect drivers. Sometimes they get impatient and lay on their horns, sometimes they’re distracted and have to brake late or accidentally cut you off, sometimes they’re too busy reading L.A. Taco on their phones at a stoplight and don’t go as soon as the light turns green. It’s all annoying, but that’s life. 

*****

So now that I’ve wasted over a thousand words and maybe 10 minutes of your day, who do I think are the best drivers in Los Angeles? That distinction goes to the drivers of Los Angeles Metro Buses. 

It will be more critical in a post-pandemic world than ever to support unheralded public institutions like LA Metro. So support the good drivers, and reduce traffic congestion while you’re at it: Go Metro.

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