California Vehicle Code 21655 makes it a crime to drive inside a car pool lane without the required minimum number of occupants. These lanes are also called high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, or diamond lanes — because of the diamond shape painted inside the lanes. The minimum number required varies by jurisdiction, but signs should be posted to let you know what the required minimum is in your area. In many areas it is only two or more people.
Car pool lanes are designed to ease congestion on the roads. By carpooling, passengers can free up space on the highways by eliminating the need for numerous vehicles to transport them. This also eases the amount of air pollution being emitted in larger cities. Carpooling is an environmentally friendly way to travel and is encouraged in many larger cities throughout California.
Many cities have restricted hours for use of car pool lanes. In larger cities like Los Angeles, the restrictions are in place 24 hours a day. Some less congested cities will have restricted hours only during morning and evening drive times. Outside these restricted hours, anyone may use the car pool lanes. Keep in kind that motorcycles, busses, and emergency response vehicles may always travel in the car pool lanes, even during restricted hours.
Children count as passengers for the purpose of driving in car pool lanes. Any occupants inside the vehicle count, they don’t have to be adults, and you don’t have to be on your way to work. So, if you want to take all the neighborhood kids out for pizza, you can breeze by other drivers by using the HOV lane. That is allowed and encouraged.
Motorcycles and zero-emission vehicles do not need to meet the minimum number of occupants to drive in HOV lanes. However, zero-emissions vehicles with only one occupant must obtain a sticker from the DMV before using the HOV lanes.
Even if the car pool lanes near you are not busy, you still cannot travel in them. Statistics show that using a car pool lane in Southern California can save drivers an average of 36 minutes. These numbers encourage carpooling, and if single drivers begin using the lanes, the incentive for carpoolers to use the lanes deteriorates. If Highway Patrol catches single-occupants using car pool lanes, they will issue tickets even if the roads are not busy.
If you have been injured in an accident because someone was driving recklessly in a car pool lane, you may have rights under the law. A good personal injury lawyer, such as those at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys may be able to help you with your claims. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you wait to file, you may run out of time. In many cases, your attorney can handle your case while you concentrate on healing from your injuries.