Tips for Safe Driving in San Francisco
Driving in any old American city can be difficult, especially when the city was founded before cars were invented. Many of our oldest roads weren’t designed with motor vehicles in mind, which creates a number of challenges when trying to drive through these areas in the modern day. To help you on your next trip through the city proper, we’ve put together this guide exploring a few tips for safe driving in San Francisco.
Avoid Unprotected Left Turns
It is well documented that left turns, specifically unprotected left turns, are more dangerous than right turns. San Francisco, like many older American cities, lacks protected left turns at most major intersections. When drivers stuck in tight traffic attempt to nudge their way into the intersection, they could miss their window to turn and inadvertently cause a crash.
If you find yourself unable to make a left turn due to traffic congestion, it may be better to find an alternative route. Although it may add a few minutes to your commute, it significantly reduces your risk of being in a crash and makes for a less stressful drive overall.
Watch for One-Ways
San Francisco is notorious for its maze of one-way streets. While locals are more familiar with the various paths through the city, it’s not uncommon for tourists and visitors from Walnut Creek or San Jose to become frustrated while driving through the city’s east side.
Before turning onto any street in San Francisco, look for signage indicating whether it is a one-way street. This could be the black and white “one-way sign” or a directional arrow painted on the ground just before an intersection’s white line.
One-way streets become especially dangerous in areas with steep, rolling hills. If a car is going the wrong way, another vehicle coming over the hill may not be able to see them before a crash.
Control Your Decline
Just as important as watching for cars going the wrong way on hills is managing your speed as you go down the other side. Because San Francisco’s rolling hills are so steep, it’s easy to gain unwanted momentum and travel much faster than you intended if you’re not watching your speedometer.
Remember to brake much earlier than you normally would when traversing San Francisco’s hills. Most importantly, never coast downhill in neutral; it doesn’t save fuel, and it actually increases your risk of losing control and causing a crash.
Stay in Your Lane
When you turn onto a narrow street with cars parked on both sides, it is tempting to drive in the middle of the road, but that could force a driver approaching from the other direction into a difficult situation. Even while driving down a narrow street, be cognizant of how much space you are using and whether a car coming from the other direction would have enough room to pass you.
Watch for Pedestrians
As you’re passing by San Francisco’s famous residential areas, be sure you’re scanning for pedestrians, especially when there are rows of cars on either side of the road. The sheer number of cars can block your line of sight and prevent you from seeing a pedestrian passing between bumpers.
What’s Off Limits
San Francisco’s desire to become a more walkable city has led to significant changes in traffic engineering. One of the biggest changes comes from the “Better Market Street” project, which overhauled the popular shopping destination and closed off traffic for most vehicles. Now, there are special streets for taxis and public transit vehicles, which can be confusing to those who aren’t familiar with the area.
Before turning near Market Street, make sure you look at all the street signs and have affirmed that you’re clear to turn. If the street is painted red, you need to find another route. Likewise, remember that areas with these special road markings tend to see more foot traffic, and avoiding a wrong turn could potentially prevent a pedestrian accident.