Drivers in the Parking Lane Cross the Line


Dear Traffic Talk:

Is it legal for motorists to use lanes designated for parking, the area on surface roads nearest to the curb, as a driving lane as long as there are no cars parked there?

Mark Jacobs


Dear Mark:

Lanes designated for parking may not be used as driving lanes, according to Officer Evan Robinson, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

Using the lanes illegally is considered a moving violation and could result in a fine of $50 or more. An officer may cite other violations, such as reckless driving or speeding.


A motorist traveling in the parking lane, even if only to pass another driver, would probably be considered at fault in the case of an accident, police said.

Robinson said the same rule would apply if someone driving in a parking lot maneuvered through empty parking spaces rather than the designated lanes.

Robinson also said that the lines on the street separating the traffic lanes from the parking lane should be treated almost like barriers. They can be crossed only if a motorist is going to park.

In some cases, accidents may occur in the parking lane when one motorist misjudges whether another car is parked or moving. Such circumstances may result in one car rear-ending another.


Dear Traffic Talk:

It is my understanding that the purpose of the diamond lanes, or carpool lanes, is to reduce traffic by inducing “drivers” to carpool.

So my question is, is it legal to be in the carpool lane with a child? Doesn’t the law read that at least two of the occupants be licensed drivers?

Jerry Shain


Dear Jerry:

In a freeway carpool lane, or high-occupancy vehicle lane, only the driver must be licensed as long as there is another person in the vehicle, CHP Officer Frank Sandoval said.

Sandoval said there is a minimum fine of $271 for driving alone in the lane.

Here is some other information about the carpool lanes provided by the California Highway Patrol:

Capt. R.C. Caldwell said there will probably be more carpool lanes added in the future. Unless the number of freeways doubles by 2010, a 45-minute commute could take two hours, he said.

Motorists also must remember that they may make entrances and exits only between the broken white lines.

Police said accidents often occur when there is slow or stopped traffic and an open carpool lane. Unexpected merging over the double yellow lines can be dangerous because of the difference in speed between the lanes.

Caldwell also said that the carpool lanes are designed for long-term driving, roughly an hour or more, and not for short commutes.

He said many motorists tell officers they are unfamiliar with the rules pertaining to the carpool lanes, but that is not an acceptable excuse. Officers are instructed to enforce the law and disregard reasons given by motorists who are caught violating traffic rules, he said.


Traffic Talk appears Fridays in The Times Valley Edition. Readers may submit comments and questions about traffic in the Valley to Traffic Talk, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited, and no anonymous letters will be accepted. To record your comments, call (818) 772-3303. Fax letters to (818) 772-3385. E-mail questions to