Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front at all times.
About 60% of accidents on California freeways are rear-endings when a driver can't stop in time . By following this one rule you significantly reduce your risk of an accident. As you get used to freeway driving the temptation will be to fall in with the crowd and drive like everyone else. Don't do it. Keep a two to three second gap whenever you can. If someone cuts in front just lift off or brake if necessary to regain the space.
This is especially important when traffic is heavy and bunched up. When traffic slows down each driver reacts to the vehicle in front (or a few ahead if you're lucky) but as that vehicle is already slower and continuing to slow, the driver behind will have to brake harder to make up for his reaction time. This can lead to a concertina effect, each successive driver braking harder until the maximum braking is not enough to prevent a crash. Don't be that unlucky sod and leave plenty space.
A couple bonus tips.
- Google maps has the trip time at about 7hrs 45mins but don't forget to add in plenty time for rest stops.
- If possible try and time your trip to pass by LA at off-peak traffic hours or the congestion could easily cost you a few hours.
- Use a GPS navigation device if possible. Even if you have someone experienced who can navigate, a GPS is a handy backup. The freeway interchanges can occasionally be tricky, if you find yourself taking a wrong turn it can get you back on route with no fuss. It also removes the need to make a risky last-minute slice across the freeway to try and avoid missing an exit. If your car doesn't have one built-in, I recommend you beg or borrow a TomTom, Garmin or similar. You can use your phone with a nav app but cell reception can be an issue at times. If you do just make sure you get a windshield mount and car charger. GPS will really eat your phone battery.
Drive safe and have a great trip!