Recently, we were looking to insure a new client’s car so we ran their driving record. It came up with an improper lane violation regarding the carpool lane. I had spoken to the person who referred the client to our office and they were a bit confused. They thought one was able to exit the carpool lane at any time, due to the fact that there was a white line to the left of the solid yellows. I disagreed, but was always curious as to why that white line was there. I’ve never seen anyone exit the carpool lane and get a ticket, so I couldn’t say for sure. To find out what those lines really mean, I looked at the DMV website and found the following information:
The California Driver Handbook (2013)
•Pg. 31 – Two solid yellow lines mean “no passing”. You’re not supposed to drive on the left-hand side of these lines unless you’re “in a carpool lane that has a designated entrance on the left”.
Rules of the Road and Safe Driving Practices
•Pg. – 23, Section 07.B.06 – Carpool Lanes
Freeway carpool lanes – “may require that once in a carpool lane you cannot cross over double lines to exit the carpool lane but must wait until you have a broken line”
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This only partially answered my question. It states that crossing the solid yellows are not allowed, but it still did not tell me why the white line was there. It took some more research but I found that according to the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) Section 3B.04, a solid white line means that crossing it is discouraged, but not illegal. Some examples of this would be seen on one-way streets or just before an intersection. If the conditions are right and you can change lanes safely, go ahead. However, the carpool lane is an exception. The white line in this case, is there as a lane barrier and should not be crossed until there is a designated entry/exit place marked by broken lines.
For more information on carpool lanes, check out the FAQs at chp.ca.gov.