1966 The first Botts dots are cemented in place. Named for Elbert D. Botts, a state chemical testing engineer, the raised, reflective dots soon become a fixture on most of the state's freeways. Over the years, the markers have become embedded in California myth and culture — which may say more about California myth and culture than it does about Botts dots.
1970 Vanity pl8s make their debut.
1972 Message board signs are installed for the first time, on the Santa Monica Freeway, warning motorists of slowdowns and accidents ahead.
1974 The transition to unleaded gas begins. Special nozzles keep motorists from using leaded gasoline, which would ruin the pollution controls installed on new cars.
1976 The carpool lane is born, on that living test lab of vehicle safety, the Santa Monica Freeway. Begun in March, it marks the first time regular lanes of a major U.S. highway have been set aside for special use, The Times reports. "The whole thing sums up bureaucratic stupidity," a commuter moans.
1986 Authorities coin the term "smash-and-grab" for crimes in which car windows are broken and purses are taken. It's the '80s, and "greed is good."
1987 The national media turn a spotlight on a rash of Los Angeles freeway shootings.
1990 Fear over carjackings builds. More than 4,000 are reported over the year, an L.A. record.
1992 The LAPD notes that, though carjackings are still growing, they represent only 6% of total car thefts and that the odds of becoming a victim remain low. Even so, Gov. Pete Wilson signs a bill lengthening prison terms for carjacking to nine years.
1994 O.J. Simpson leads police on a chase in a white Ford Bronco. It was telecast live around the nation and became one of the most bizarre and public crime spectacles of modern times. Traffic comes to a halt from Disneyland to Los Angeles, and commuters jam the overpasses to cheer and wave.
1995 Los Angeles City Council members first propose high-resolution cameras at problem intersections where cars speed through the red lights. Smile.
1996 The Van Nuys Drive-In Theater closes (it's demolished two years later). From Burbank to Reseda, mothers of teenagers breathe sighs of relief.
2002 California first uses its freeway message signs to alert drivers about abducted children. They're called Amber Alerts, named for a 9-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996.
2005 Drivers of hybrid vehicles that combine gas and electric engines are allowed in L.A. carpool lanes — even when driving solo, honoring a fine L.A. tradition.
2006 Reflecting growing concerns over fuel sustainability and the environment, the first pure vegetable oil engine conversion boutique opens in Silver Lake. It is among a handful of local shops that adapt diesel engines to burn a variety of biofuels.
Sources: Times archives; John Fisher, L.A. Department of Transportation; Matthew Roth, the Automobile Club of Southern California. Compiled by Vicki Gallay.