California’s 511 Traffic System Explained

by admin on April 26, 2013


From the sunny beaches of San Diego to the icy summit of Mount Whitney, few states have as much awe-inspiring natural terrain as California. Of course, the beauty of the diverse landscape does create a unique set of challenges. Weather. Traffic. Tourists. It could be cool and breezy in one area, but pouring down buckets of rain just a few minutes away. This can make for some hazardous driving, and some ill-prepared drivers. In short: Driving in California can be a challenge.

Because of the variety of terrain and subsequent weather conditions, and really just because of the sheer size of the state, California was an early adopter of the 511 System, enabling drivers to easily obtain California Travel Information in a variety of ways: via landline, cell phone, or the Web.



In 2001, there were more than 300 different phone numbers used to provide travel information in the United States alone. In an effort to simplify and streamline, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a unified three-digit number to be used for travel information. This quickly became the 511 System.



For the price of a local call, this number provides you with a wide variety of information to help keep you and your passengers safe. There are up-to-the-minute updates on highway travel conditions, and the latest weather reports for almost any region. Some areas offer traffic updates and rideshare information, as well as any construction- or accident-related detours you may need to take.



If you’re at home and wondering what the latest weather report is, or checking on road conditions for your morning commute, or just otherwise connected to a landline, congrats for thinking ahead. Just dial the number and listen to the menu that comes up.

If you’re in your car, the first thing to do is: PULL OVER. Once you’re safely pulled over, go ahead and dial 511 on your cell phone. Listen to the menu, make your selections, and finish the call before you are on your way again. If you try to do this while driving, the chances of you crashing skyrocket, and then all the people behind you will have to dial 511 to find out what the problem is, and then they’ll crash, and on and on…



Because California is so big, it has been divided into several sections. The California Department of Transportation has a quickmap that provides frequently updated information on traffic jams, lane closures, and the like. There are regional sites for:

  • Redding
  • Sacramento
  • San Francisco
  • Central Valley
  • Los Angeles
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego

If you’re planning to use any of the 511 websites from your smartphone, be sure to first PULL OVER. Yeah, surfing the web is just as illegal as using your phone when you’re driving. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Related posts: