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Driving in LA and Los Angeles County
SIG Alerts, Grapevine, etc.

I-5 Newhall Pass morning commute to Los Angeles

This information has been provided as a quick reference to commonly asked questions from residents new to California. However, this information may become outdated immediately after publishing. We therefore suggest that you follow the links to confirm the latest information and laws applying to your specific question.

Santa Clarita Guide is not responsible for incorrect information on this site. The publication of this information is merely a good faith effort to assist drivers in Santa Clarita.

Cheapest Gas

This is probably of primary concern to most drivers. Check this link, enter your zip code and you'll know instantly the cheapest gas where you live. Actually, this link works for anywhere in the U.S.


What's the commute from SCV into LA like? Unfortunately, ranking in the Top 10 Cities in America isn't a good thing in this study, which is where Santa Clarita ranked at Number 6 in the "Ten Cities with the Longest Commutes" in 2017.

Driving Laws in California

Alcohol and Driving in California?
Can you drive with a bottle of alcohol in the car? Check the chart at the above link to see the number of drinks permitted before you're likely to break the blood alcohol limit.

Cell Phone Usage While Driving
It is unlawful to use a cell phone in California while driving. However, if the cell phone is designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking operation, it may be used 'hands-free' while driving.

Child Restraint Law
California implemented a law requiring all children under age 8, or until reaching a height of 4 feet 9 inches, be secured in a proper child passenger restraint in the back seat. Follow the link for specific laws that apply to children 18 and under.

If You are Involved in a Traffic Accident
Follow this link to understand what you must do if you are involved in a traffic accident.

Liability Insurance Requirements
California has very specific laws about the level of liability insurance and evidence of your financial responsibility. Read up on the above link so you do not find yourself with a suspended license.

Oh, oh! Did You Get a Ticket?
In California, after you pay your ticket and an administration fee, you have an opportunity to attend Traffic School to hide the citation from public view. Limitations apply. Follow the link to see if your situation qualifies.

A list of traffic schools is available on the above website. You may also attend here at College of the Canyons or online.

Park & Ride Lots

Provided by The City of Santa Clarita

Church on the Way
23415 Cinema Drive

Golden Valley Park & Ride
Map It

Sierra Highway/Newhall Avenue
Map It

Newhall Avenue/14 Freeway
Map It

Online Traffic Reports, Carpool Lanes, and Snow Closures

Carpool Lane Maps
Which route has the carpool lanes? Follow the links for a color-coded map from the Department of Transportation.

CHP Traffic Incident Report
Customize the view for hot spots all over the state, or just in Newhall! It's also interesting to watch, as it updates every minute.

Dept. of Public Works
This website shows closed roads within unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County ONLY.

Los Angeles City Traffic Info
This site is confined to the City of Los Angeles traffic.

Is there an accident on your route? What streets are closed in Los Angeles for special events? How fast is traffic moving? What's the traffic like near LAX? Sig Alert, Caltrans, and the California Highway Patrol want you to be prepared before heading out. Tips: To avoid the heaviest traffic congestion southbound, leave the valley after 9:00 a.m. and return before 3:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m. from downtown Los Angeles. If heading out on holiday weekends, try to schedule your trip to depart at off-times. The heaviest traffic heading from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is Friday evening, returning Sunday night.

If you're on the road and do not have a web-enabled phone or PDA, simply call Caltrans' Automated Road Conditions number: 1-800-427-7623.

Real Time Traffic Report
Get a visual of where the traffic incidents are blocking traffic, construction closures and traffic flow.

SigAlert Traffic Reports
This traffic report is location based and is available for most major cities throughout the U.S.

What is a SigAlert?
As this term is unique to California, you may be wondering what it is. It all started with Loyd Sigmon, a local radio reporter, and the L.A.P.D.

Snow Closures
Yup, you read that right--snow closures. North of Castaic, I-5 is referred to as "The Grapevine" by most motorists. ("The Grapevine" actually begins at Ft. Tejon.) If we have heavy rains in our area, it is likely that The Grapevine section of I-5, the highest point of the drive at an altitude of 4,183 feet, is closed due to snow. If you must head north, choose an alternate route, such as Hwy 101. Vehicular traffic may be stopped for days in both directions at this section of roadway, stranding motorists.

Tips Specific to Driving in California

Brake Checks & Vehicle Maintenance
If you drive the freeways daily, your brakes may wear out more frequently than if your driving is limited to the valley. You may have noticed that freeway drivers tend to speed up and brake suddenly, thus causing wear on the brakes. Pay close attention to the warning signs that your brakes may need replacing: strange sounds coming from the wheels or a pull on the steering wheel when applying the brakes.

California's Lemon Law
Do you spend more time in the shop with your brand-new vehicle than you do on the road? California's Lemon Law protects consumers of vehicles with serious warranty defects that the dealer or manufacturer can't repair. In some cases, you may be entitled to a replacement or refund for your vehicle. Download the brochure "Lemon-Aid for Consumers."

Driving into Mexico
If you're thinking of driving into Mexico for the weekend, you'll need to plan ahead. If you're renting a car, don't assume you can drive it across the border. And if you own your own vehicle, you'll want to need to purchase Mexican insurance to meet the financial requirements of Mexico. Download this brochure from San Diego County Travel Tips to Mexico

ALERT: Minors under age 16 require consent from both parents. All U.S. citizens require a passport to cross the Mexico/American border, either by land or by air.

First Rain Warning
If you are new to Southern California, you should know that the first rain of the season produces 'ice rink' conditions on our roads and highways. This is a result of the build up of oil that occurs after months of no precipitation. So please, drive as you would during freezing rain in other parts of the country.

Santa Claus Sting
Every year around Christmas, the Sheriff's Department dresses up a deputy who crosses the street in a marked crosswalk--usually not at an intersection. Unsuspecting drivers pause to observe the strange sight of Santa, and when they fail to stop for Santa--ouch! They receive a citation. In 2004 this took place in Newhall, but any area is fair game. In 2007, rather than Santa, the Sheriff's Department used moms and strollers. So beware at crosswalks! Note: Other metro areas of Los Angeles have used various characters at different times of the year, including the Easter Bunny.

Smog Check
Smog inspections are generally required during a vehicle's initial registration in California and once every two years thereafter, according to California's leading smog check support group,

Sun Damage
It's hot and sunny here in Southern California, and that means the potential for increased sun damage to your vehicle. Consider purchasing interior windshield screens (available at discount department stores and automotive centers) and parking your vehicle in your garage to minimize sun exposure.

Vehicle Ratings
Looking for a new car? Shop with knowledge! The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates vehicles based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. Check with your insurance agent, as these reports may impact your rates.

Traffic Authorities

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Find out how long you have before you must register your vehicle when relocating to California, where to take your driver's test, and answers to most of your DMV related questions. Hint: Avoid long lines at the DMV by making an appointment, 1-800-777-0133.
24427 Newhall Ave, Santa Clarita

California Highway Patrol
661-294-5540, Castaic Office
The CHP, while best known for traffic enforcement on the highways, also assists local, state & federal agencies to protect California. If you live in the unincorporated areas, call the CHP for traffic violations in your area. (The LA County Sheriff's Department provides all law enforcement for the City of Santa Clarita, including traffic violations.)

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Department
LA County Sheriff's deputies provide all law enforcement for the City of Santa Clarita, including traffic violations.
23740 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Santa Clarita

Additional Resources

#399 for Motorist Aid
To request Metro Freeway Service Patrol tow service, report freeway road hazards, contact your auto club, or report freeway damage or needed repair, dial #399 from your cell phone. This does not replace 911. Use 911 for medical, fire department or law enforcement response. But for all non-emergency freeway assistance, dial #399.

AAA of Southern California
If you're a member, you can find out the gas prices in your neighborhood and on your route, get the cost of insurance to drive into Mexico, get your TripTiks online, and scan the tour books. Not a member? Use the mapping software, get real time traffic information, general information on your vacation destination, and more.
23770 Valencia Blvd, Santa Clarita

Golden State Gateway Coalition
A growing private/pubic sector partnership with more than 40 members, formed to ensure the safe and efficient movement of people, goods, and services through the Interstate 5 corridor in northern Los Angeles County--the main north-south freeway serving California's markets. Its initial objective is to secure funding for improvements to Interstate 5 from the confluence of the I-5 and SR-118 freeway to southern Kern County in the form of carpool lanes and truck lanes in order to ease congestion and promote safety.

Santa Clarita Emergency Expo
Once a year the City of Santa Clarita presents this free opportunity for residents to see first-hand the emergency services available to them in the event of an auto accident, natural disaster, or act of terrorism. Additionally, resources are available to better prepare individuals and families for emergency situations.

Santa Clarita Youth Grove Memorial
Too many of our young people have been lost to vehicle accidents. They have been memorialized in a lovely grove under the oak trees in Central Park. Each stump holds the name of a person who's life was cut short in an auto accident.
27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, Santa Clarita (Central Park)

Electric Charging Stations

City of Santa Clarita Charging Stations
In addition to the compressed natural gas fueling station at the City's Transit Maintenance Facility, there are several electric vehicle charging stations available. Follow the link to find the one nearest you.

Updated January 15, 2019
Endorsed by
County of Los Angeles SCV Chamber of Commerce California Travel and Tourism Commission
In association with
City of Santa Clarita SCV Tourism Bureau
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