Freeway Driving For Dummies

Loren Kantor
5 min readNov 15, 2023
Woodcut of Golden State Freeway in Los Angeles. (artwork by author)

Recently, I had a flat tire on the 405 Freeway. I pulled to the right shoulder and called Auto Club. I was told there was a 2-hour delay and I was advised to wait in the car. I decided against this. Even though it was raining, I exited the car and leaned against the freeway wall while commuters sped by at 80 mph. One truck came so close, my Mazda wobbled back and forth from the wind vortex. When the tow truck finally arrived, it parked at an angle twenty feet behind my car, it’s rear bumper jutting into the slow lane. The driver told me he used his truck as a shield in case some drunk or distracted motorist drifted onto the shoulder. “I‘m violating company policy,” he said, “but I don’t plan on dying out here.”

Freeway driving is serious business. Many driving aphorisms simply don’t apply on freeways. Defensive driving, for example. Yes, you need to be wary and anticipate unpredictable behavior. But it’s just as important to be offensive. If you’re driving at the speed limit while everyone else is speeding, you are a problem. Other drivers will tailgate, honk, cut you off and flip you the finger for driving too slow. To road ragers, slow drivers are raw meat.

When changing lanes, we’re taught to use our turn signal, wait for a clear space, then move into the next lane. In reality, this is the worst thing to do. The moment you hit your blinker, cars speed up so you can’t cut in front of them. Entitlement reigns on freeways and lane changes trigger other drivers. The best way to shift lanes is cut into the adjacent lane and then hit the blinker.

When someone rides your bumper at high speed, they’re playing bully ball. This is the number one cause of freeway accidents, people tailgating while speeding. When someone tailgates me, I slow down. If you linger at the speed limit, the tailgater will ultimately go around you.

I avoid driving behind pickup trucks with open beds particularly when they’re hauling equipment. Gardeners in pickups are awful. They’re always in a rush from job to job and they don’t secure their supplies properly. My car was once struck by a flying paint bucket. Another time I barely dodged a wayward trashcan. Gravel trucks are the worst. Years ago, my windshield was shattered from a flying piece of gravel. If you find yourself in an agricultural area, avoid trucks hauling produce…

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Loren Kantor

Loren is a writer and woodcut artist based in Los Angeles. He teaches printmaking and creative writing to kids and adults.