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Who Is Allowed to Use the Carpool Lanes in Los Angeles?

Posted on March 15, 2024 in Car Accidents

Carpool lanes in Los Angeles are designated only for vehicles that are carrying multiple occupants. These lanes are meant to encourage groups of people to travel together in the same vehicles to reduce the number of cars on the road. If an individual violates the carpool lane law in California, he or she can face a minimum fine of $490.

What Is the Importance of Carpool Lanes? 

Carpooling cuts down on traffic congestion and decreases the environmental impact of transportation. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road in Los Angeles can also improve air quality by decreasing the amount of emissions. It conserves fuel, decreases air pollutants and reduces traffic by encouraging individual drivers to pool their vehicular resources and ride together.

Who Can Travel in a Carpool or HOV Lane?

Under California Vehicle Code 21655.5 VC, the Department of Transportation and local authorities have the right to authorize exclusive use of highway lanes for high-occupancy vehicles (HOV). 

This law states: “A person shall not drive a vehicle upon those lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices.” In Los Angeles, a vehicle must be carrying two or more people to drive in the carpool or HOV lane. This count includes child passengers. 

One exception to the rule requiring at least two vehicle occupants in a carpool lane is the El Monte Busway, which requires three or more people per vehicle during peak hours: 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

Exceptions to the HOV Rule

If a motorist has an emergency, driving in a carpool lane alone is permitted in Los Angeles. There are additional exceptions for motorcycles, mass transit vehicles, blood transport vehicles and paratransit vehicles. Unless specifically prohibited by a traffic control device, these vehicles can use a carpool lane in Los Angeles even without multiple passengers.

Finally, if a vehicle is distinguished as a clean-air vehicle and has a red or purple decal issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, it is exempt from the standard HOV rules unless local signage states otherwise. Note that as of July 2, 2011, single-occupancy hybrid vehicles with yellow decals are not permitted in carpool lanes.

When Can a Driver Enter the Carpool Lane?

Drivers must wait for the appropriate time to enter and exit carpool lanes in Los Angeles. According to Vehicle Code VC 21651a, it is against the law to cross over solid double lines that are painted white or yellow. A driver may only enter or exit an HOV lane in designated areas where the double line becomes a single dashed (white) line. Drivers must also wait until the lane change can be performed safely.

When Are LA’s Carpool Lanes Active?

While part-time HOV lanes are common in Northern California, carpool lanes in Los Angeles are active 24/7. The minimum passenger requirements are in effect in all of Southern California’s carpool lanes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only exception is on State Road 14, where single drivers can operate in off-peak hours.

What Is the Penalty for a Carpool Lane Violation?

A driver who violates the carpool restrictions in Los Angeles could receive a fine of $490 or more. This is an infraction under state law that will not result in any points being added to the driver’s license. If a driver causes a car accident while unlawfully entering or exiting a carpool lane, he or she could face legal responsibility for related injuries, deaths and property damage.