What Cars Qualify for HOV Lane in California?

vehicles allowed in the HOV lane in California

To help the environment and encourage carpooling and ridesharing, the state of California has incorporated HOV lanes, otherwise known as High-Occupancy Vehicle Lanes, on several highways. This lane was designed to alleviate road congestion and maximize the rider capacity on California Roads. These lanes may seem like a lifesaver; however, there are some rules and regulations you should learn before using them. So let’s take a look at what cars qualify for HOV lane in California.

How to Know a Lane is Carpool or HOV?

The California HOV or Carpool, or Diamond lanes are usually located on the inside (left) lane and are identified by signs along the freeway and white diamond symbols painted on the pavement.

So What Cars Qualify for HOV Lane in California?

The following vehicles are allowed to drive in HOV Lanes:

  1. Motorcycles
  2. Public Transit Vehicles (i.e., busses)
  3. Certain plug-in hybrid, alternative fuel, and clean air vehicles (must have green or white decal issued by the California DMV)
  4. Any vehicle with two or more occupants (some highways require three or more)

HOV Occupancy Rules 

There is an occupancy requirement with HOV lanes. Vehicles with two or more occupants are allowed to access the HOV lanes during their operational hours. An ‘occupant’ is defined as any person who occupies a safety restraint device such as a seat belt. 

Each vehicle that travels on an HOV lane must carry the minimum number of people posted at the entrance signs. Usually, that means at least two people, or in some cases, three people. This is non-negotiable. Therefore, a child counts as a person but not an animal or unborn child.

Any vehicle subject to the 55 MPH speed limit like large trucks or vehicles towing a trailer cannot use an HOV lane even if they meet the required number of occupants.

Exceptions to the Occupancy Rule 

Be mindful of the fact that this occupancy requirement does not apply to motorcycles or vehicles with green or white decals issued by the California DMV. Motorcycles and vehicles with green or white decals can drive solo in the HOV lane unless a sign indicates otherwise.

Other exceptions include:

  • Part-time High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes: These lanes are carpool only during peak travel times such as 6-10 am and 3-7 pm on weekdays (Monday through Friday).  As a result, it is legal for single-occupant cars to use these lanes when it is outside the HOV hours of operation. Signs will be posted next to the HOV lane telling drivers when the lanes are carpool only. Part-Time HOV Lanes are more common in Northern California. In Southern California, typically, HOV lanes are separated from regular lanes by a buffer and are in effect 24/7.
  • High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes: These HOT Lanes or “Express Lanes” allow single-occupant vehicles as long as they pay a toll. The toll can be paid electronically with a FasTrak responder or through a Prepaid Express Account. Express lanes may never be used by vehicles that are restricted to 55 MPH speed limit such as trucks and cars with trailers. 

If unsure that you qualify for the HOV lane, always stay on the safe side and don’t drive in this lane. Traffic may be bad but getting an expensive carpool traffic ticket could really ruin your day. 

Carpool Lane Ticket Cost

An HOV lane violation ticket is a minimum $490 fine. The fine can increase for repeat offenders. Additionally, you could end up with a point on your driving record depending on the carpool lane violation. If you received a traffic ticket for crossing the double lines to get in or out of the HOV lane then a point will be added to your driving record. A DMV point will stay on your record for the next 3 years and increase your insurance premiums. On the other hand, a traffic ticket for driving solo in the HOV lane does NOT carry a point.

What If I Get a Carpool Ticket

Mistakes do happen; we are all human. Maybe you were trying to merge with heavy traffic and found yourself in the wrong lane by accident. Or it could be that you moved into the carpool lane for safety reasons. Either way you were caught and given a HOV lane ticket. This can be upsetting. But, you are not alone. It is one of the most common traffic violations in California. So what do you do? The best and easiest way to fight a carpool lane ticket is through a trial by written declaration.

A trial by written declaration is contesting your ticket in writing instead of going to court. This not only saves you time but if your ticket is dismissed, there are NO points and NO fines. Keeping your driving record clean.

TicketBust Traffic Ticket Dismissal Services

At TicketBust, we have helped thousands of drivers fight their traffic tickets through the trial by written declaration process. Our defense system builds a case for you in writing. All you have to do is tell us what happened, download the documents and send them to court. This way you can say goodbye to all those fines, fees, and points. As well as, not worry about insurance costs skyrocketing. Get started here or give us a call 800-850-8038.

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