Home News San Luis Obispo is the worst place to drive

San Luis Obispo is the worst place to drive

Northbound Highway 101 entering San Luis Obispo. Photo by Anthony Ramos

Driving in San Luis Obispo, Calif. is absolutely horrendous.

Have you ever been cut off by a car not using their turn signal, or stuck eight cars back on the left side of a two-lane freeway wondering why the car up front is going as fast as a semi?

Maybe you almost hit a biker weaving through traffic downtown, or a car going the opposite direction on a one-way. 

These can be common occurrences for a driver in SLO.

“I saw a driver turn the wrong way on a one-way last Wednesday,” said Cassandra Sherburne, a local resident.

If you’ve driven here and never experienced anything like this, I’d be shocked. If you’re a driver that slows down because someone is riding you, they probably want to pass and you should GET OVER! 

“I stopped this vehicle today for a left lane violation on I-65. The driver had approximately 20 cars slowed behind her because she would not move back to the right lane,” tweeted Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, an Indiana State Police Officer. “Again…if there are vehicles behind you, you must move to the right lane to allow them to pass.

The law in California states that the left lane or fast lane is for passing. It is not reserved only for passing, making it hard and uncommon for this law to be enforced on slow drivers. 

If you drive a car going 55 m.p.h. in the fast lane while the average speed of traffic is 65 m.p.h., it is likely there will be a traffic jam as a result. This increases the potential for an accident as you have people trying to weave between lanes, or they are expecting to maintain their speed but are forced to slow down abruptly. 

Unfortunately, this is only a small part of the problem. SLO is a very tightly packed town with an area of 13 square miles and a population density of 3,619 people per square mile.

According to World Population Review, People aged 18-24 (most of which are college students) make up nearly 35% of the population in San Luis Obispo. Twelve percent of the population are people older than the age of 65, and typically motor skills start to decrease around this time. This means that nearly half of the population either just started driving, or could potentially be experiencing a reduction in motor skills. 

Studies also show that college students are more likely to drive distracted, which puts them at risk along with other drivers and the large amount of bikers.

The city is also very bicycle friendly, and it’s a great method of transportation. Many streets are marked with signs that allow bikers to use the full lane. You can do this on Higuera St. downtown, where there is usually a steady flow of traffic. It’s convenient for bikers, but not for drivers, if they’re flying out from one of the side streets.

If you find yourself driving downtown on a Thursday evening, you may run into the farmers’ market (when normalcy existed). The city shuts down five blocks of Higuera St. downtown, forcing you to navigate through multiple one way lanes.

The street is only shut down for three hours so it’s not terrible, but if you’re lucky enough to drive downtown after the farmers’ market, there is a good chance you’ll find yourself involved with Bike Night. 

If this happens, there is nothing you can do about it. You will likely have to stop your car to avoid hitting someone and wait there for a few minutes as bikers swarm past the vehicle.

San Luis Obispo is a fun college town as well as a very nice place to raise a family, but it is also an incredibly hectic place to drive.

If you’re visiting, be ready to go incredibly slow in the fast lane, get cut off by college students, and if you go the wrong way on a one-way I will simply laugh at you.


  1. Hello Anthony, I wish you well in your quest to become a journalist but please publish true facts. I realize they don’t sell as well, but your integrity could be sacrificed at the altar of sensationalism. Hard to get trust back if you make a monetary deal with it. So why do you conflate a driver on I-65 which is in Tennessee, with drivers in SLO? I hope your article does serve to prevent overcrowding here in paradise. Oh and we have earthquakes here in SLO too. (not)

  2. Dude get the fug on already. You don’t like it here then leave. The central coast will not miss you. These small infractions are the price we pay to live in paradise!

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