At 11:43 p.m. on Wednesday night, a black sedan screeched its brakes and rear-ended an SUV stopped dead in the middle of Gayley Avenue. Why wasn’t the SUV moving? Because Double-Doubles, and laziness, and a systemic problem.
After dozens of close calls, this is the first accident I’ve seen that was caused by an obscenely long In-N-Out drive thru line leaking into the street and blocking traffic. And (since no one was hurt and there was no damage beyond a scratch done to either car and I don’t think either of the drivers even exchanged insurance information) I felt so incredibly vindicated watching it happen.
Living near the Westwood In-N-Out, I used to have to swerve around cars backed up in the street coming around a blind curve every single day. On my current commute home, I pass the In-N-Out in Palms where cars repeatedly block through traffic trying to make the right on Canfield off of Venice and it drives me insane. In-N-Out drive-thru lines are literally the only thing that’s ever incited road rage in me. I don’t care how much you want a cheeseburger and how little you want to leave your car, you don’t get to break the law and put me in danger because of it.
(This is an image from Google streetview that was taken at a random time on a random day and the drive thru line is so long that a car is just hanging out in the street.)
I called up Bruce Gillman, spokesperson for the LA Department of Transportation, to see if others have had the same complaints or if there’s been any real effort to solve the In-N-Out drive-thru problem. He said he’s seen cars backed up into the street at the Highland location, but there’s not much that can be done. “They’ve really done a lot to maximize space and efficiency and they even have someone take your order outside,” Gillman said. “In this case, In-n-Out is simply a victim of their own popularity.”
He said that police officers can issue moving violations for cars just hanging out in the middle of the street waiting to get a taste of those sweet, sweet Animal Style fries, but that doesn’t happen very often. I think it should. Something needs to happen, dammit. Here’s how we can stop In-N-Out from doing harm:
Aggressively Issue Citations
If you want people to start wearing seatbelts, you issue a bunch of seatbelt citations. I you want people to stop blocking the street because for stupid indulgent reasons (and I do—I really, really do) you have cops poaching near In-N-Out drive thrus and handing out thousand-dollar tickets for anyone who impedes the flow of traffic. And then slap them with a six-month drive-thru probation sentence where they’re forced to park and go inside the restaurant where they’ll realize it’s not that bad, thus conditioning them to not clog up drivethrus in the future. We’re playing the long game here.
Enforce Maximum Occupancy Regulations
If a fire marshall can have regulations about the amount of people inside a bar at one time, the same rules should apply to In-N-Out lots and cars. There needs to be a weight sensor in every drive thru, and when the maximum number of cars is reached, a comically large iron door shuts over the street entrance and a bunch of spike strips periodically shoot up from the pavement threatening to puncture the tires of any cars waiting in the street for the comically large gate to open again. Different locations can play around with different Indiana Jones-style boobie traps.
Force them to Build Skyward
This would be wildly expensive and unrealistic and technically unenforceable—but I don’t care because I’m mad. The Department of Transportation or Zoning Commission or whoever would be in charge of this should force every In-N-Out to build multi-story spiraling drive-thru structure to prevent cars from bleeding into the street. It sucks because so many In-N-Outs already maximized the space they have by creating intricate patterns and paths and switchbacks for the cars to snake through, but it’s not working. They need to start building skywards. They could even put the employee who takes your order outside on rollerblades and they could rollerblade down the spiral which would be very efficient and also fun and good for branding.
Come to the Sad Realization That There’s Nothing We Can Do and This Is More of a Mild Inconvenience Than Anything Especially Compared to the Real Issues Facing the Department of Transportation and Other Government Entities
Josh Scherer is the Senior Food Writer at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @CulinaryBroDown. He makes In-N-Out inspired nachos, because of course he does.