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Pavement Markings and What They Mean

California highway - Photo credit: Minesweeper

Pavement Markings and What Colors Mean

Pavement markings are typically white or yellow. Other colors exist, but white and yellow are the most common colors and the ones you must know the meaning of for your written DMV test and permit practice.

When you see white and yellow lines separate travel lanes or mark the center of the road, they tell you if traffic is traveling in one or two directions. Yellow lines separate traffic in opposite directions and white lines separate traffic lanes moving in the same direction.

Pavement markings - colors show directions - copyright:

Yellow Lines

On a road with yellow lines in the center of the road, traffic travels in opposite directions. You are on a two-way roadway and must drive to the right of these lines.

If there is a single solid yellow line painted on the left edge, you are traveling on a divided highway or a one-way street. The yellow line often marks the edge of the median or divider. There is usually one on each side of the divider.

The right edge of the roadway is marked with a normal solid white line (edge line).

Remember: if there is a yellow line is on your right and a white line on your left, you are going the wrong way.

A yellow (center) line must always be on your left!

Wrong way - copyright:

Yellow Lines and No-Passing Zones

On a two-way roadway, the yellow center markings can consist of:

  • A. A normal broken yellow line.
  • B. A double yellow line, one of which is a normal broken yellow line and the other is a normal solid yellow line.
  • C. Two normal solid yellow lines (a double yellow line).

A normal broken yellow line marks a two-direction passing zone. Traffic traveling in either direction may pass other vehicles with care and when the way ahead is clear.

Pavement markings - broken yellow line. Copyright:

Where there is one solid yellow line and one broken yellow line, traffic traveling adjacent to the broken line may pass other vehicles with care, but traffic traveling adjacent to the solid line is prohibited from passing.

Pavement markings - solid/broken yellow lines

Two normal solid yellow lines mean that traffic from either direction is prohibited from passing.

A double solid yellow line - Copyright:

If you travel on an undivided two-way roadway with four or more lanes, the center of the road is marked with a solid double yellow line. Don’t drive to the left of the center, unless you must cross the lines to turn left.

Pavement markings on a divided highway with 4 or more lanes

Crossing Solid Yellow Lines to Pass a Bicyclist

Solid yellow lines mark no-passing zones. You may not cross these lines to pass other vehicles.

Some states make an exception for slow-moving bicycles or other obstructions in your travel lane. In Florida, as an example, you may cross the lines when an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway. When a bicyclist is traveling so slowly as to constitute an obstruction, a motorist may cross the center line in a no-passing zone if the way is clear and it is safe to do so.

Passing bicyclist - A double solid yellow line. Copyright: Xzelenz Media

Remember, the solid yellow line is there for a reason. In many situations, it may be dangerous to pass. Don’t try to pass the bicyclist by giving less clearance or squeeze the bicyclist off the road. If state laws prohibit passing or if you don’t have a clear view of the road ahead, stay behind the bicyclist until it is safe to pass.

Crossing Solid Yellow Lines to Turn Left

You can cross yellow lines in a no-passing zone to turn left turn into a driveway or side road.

Unless state law specifies otherwise, you may also be allowed to make a U-turn across a single or a a double yellow line. You should make sure you know and understand the law in your state.

Two-way Center Turn Lane

Two-way left-turn lane

A center lane with a normal broken yellow line and a normal solid yellow line on each side indicate a two-way left-turn lane. This lane is used by traffic in either direction as part of a left-turn maneuver. The broken yellow line is inside two-way left-turn lane and the solid line is painted toward the adjacent traffic lane as shown in the illustration.

You cannot use this lane as a normal travel lane or use it to pass other vehicles. You should only enter this lane when preparing for a left turn.

Users often misunderstand the arrows painted on the pavement, thinking that the lane is for both left and right turns. It isn’t.

Reversible lanes

Reversible traffic lane

You will see reversible lanes on highways where certain lanes are open for traffic in one direction during morning commute and in the other direction during evening commute. Free lane capacity is used to improve traffic flow in peak hours and during special events. Special lane-use control signals show you if you can use a reversible lane or not.

Pavement markings in a reversible lane consists of a normal broken double yellow line on each side of the lane.

You must not cross the yellow lines to a reversible lane, unless lane-use control signals indicate that the lane may be used for through travel in your direction or for a left turn.

White Lines

White lines separate travel lanes moving in one direction.

These pavement markings can consist of:

  • A. A normal or wide dotted white line
  • B. A broken white line
  • C. A normal or wide solid white line – discourages crossing
  • D. A normal or wide double white line – prohibits crossing

Pavement marking: white lines

Dotted white lane lines separate a through lane from deceleration or acceleration lane, or a through lane that becomes a mandatory exit or turn lane.

A normal broken white line separates lanes where you are permitted to change lanes. Cross the lane line markings with care.

When normal or wide solid white lines are painted between travel lanes, you should stay in your lane. The solid line means that crossing the line marking is discouraged. You should only change lane when it is necessary to avoid an incident.

The solid white lane line marking is often used to separate a through lane from an added mandatory turn lane at intersections. Once you have entered your lane, don’t change your mind in the last second. Respect the pavement markings.

If a double white line separate travel lanes, you are prohibited from crossing the line. You must not change lanes for any reason.

Other Pavement Markings You Should Know

Sharrows: They are Shared Lane Markings. Such markings simply remind you that the traffic land can be used by both motorists and bicyclists. Note the difference between a designated bicycle lane and a shared roadway (sharrow) that is also open for motorists.

Pavement markings: sharrow

HOV lanes: These lanes are reserved for certain vehicles and marked with a white diamond symbol. Signs beside the lane will indicate what vehicles can use the lane.

Diamond Symbol in a HOV lane

Stop or limit lines: Such lines are white and painted across the travel lane at intersections and indicate where you must stop your vehicle, when required to do so by a sign or signal. If there is no stop line, you must stop before entering a crosswalk or the intersection.

Stop line

Summary: Everything You Need to Know in This Video!

This video summarizes everything you need to know about road markings for your State’s DMV test.

DMV Test Preparations - Road Markings & Lines

Check Your Knowledge – Quick Test



#1. When is a double white line used between traffic lanes?

A double white line is two solid white lines that indicate a lane barrier. They tell you that crossing the lines to change lane is prohibited.

#2. What do sharrows mark?

Sharrows are shared lane markings. They remind you that a traffic lane can be used by both motorists and bicyclists.

#3. What do two solid yellow lines on a two-lane road indicate?

Solid yellow lines mark a no passing zone. When a solid yellow line is on your side of the road you must never cross the line to pass other vehicles. Pass only if there is a broken yellow line on your side of the center.

#4. If you have a solid yellow line on your right and a white line on your left:

If you find yourself on a roadway with yellow to your right and white to your left, you are going the wrong way. Remember, yellow is used to divide opposing roadway traffic and can indicate the left travel edge of a divided roadway.

Yellow line markings should never be on your right side; always on your left side.

#5. Road lines that separate traffic going in different directions are:

Yellow lines mark the center of a road used for two-way traffic. Broken yellow lines indicate that passing is permitted. Solid yellow lines indicate no passing.

#6. What color are road lines that separate traffic going in the same direction?

White lines mark traffic lanes going in the same direction.

#7. If you turn into a road at night and see road reflectors shine red, the reflectors tell you that:

Red markings or reflectors indicate a roadway that must not be entered. If you are going the wrong way at night, the road reflectors will shine red in your headlights.

#8. What does a white diamond symbol on the pavement usually mark?

Lanes marked with a diamond symbol are known as carpool or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. The white diamond symbol may also be used together with a bicycle symbol to mark bike lanes.

#9. Broken double yellow lines on each side of a lane indicates:

Reversible lanes are lanes that are open for traffic in one direction during morning commute and in the other direction during evening commute.

#10. A two-way left turn lane is marked on both sides with:

A two-way left turn lane is found in the middle of a two-way street. It is marked on both sides by two yellow lines. The inner line is broken and the outer line is solid.

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More Interactive Practice Tests


  1. izhak meir December 5, 2021

    I enjoyed

  2. Worku Baye October 15, 2021

    It is Amazing

  3. Two pairs of yellow lines, with a broken line inside and a solid line outside, indicate a ________ .

    A. center left turn lane

    B. loading zone

    C. median island

    D. reversible lane

  4. Recently the acceleration/deceleration lane striping was changed to a series of short broken lines. Why was it changed and what is the anticipated driver usage? Since the new striping went in place most drivers are now traveling the full length of the acceleration lane without accelerating before merging instead of accelerating and merging when up to speed.

    • I suppose that “a series of short broken lines” means the normal dotted white line that separates speed change lanes and travel lanes. The dotted white lane is national standard for entrance ramps and exit ramps, described in the MUTCD and above. If this standard wasn’t used before, it probably explains why markings changed on this particular highway.

      It sounds strange that “most drivers are now traveling the full length of the acceleration lane without accelerating”. The way you use speed change lanes hasn’t changed. Or maybe I am missing something here?

  5. I am turning left onto a three lane road from a signal light with two turning lanes,while turning a broken white line is set so the right most turning lane has to turn to the right most lane of the three lane highway. This leaves the left turning lane with 2 lanes to choose from. My question is who has the right of way to the middle lane of the three lane highway?

    • The simple answer: noone. (State laws don’t give anyone the “right-of-way”)

      What the broken line means: A white dotted extension line between lanes is there to guide vehicles through the intersection. Even if you should stay in your lane and exit in the same lane, the dotted line is less restrictive than a solid extension line.

      Depending on state, there may be additional rules to consider.

  6. Tommy Quinn July 26, 2018

    Are these lines considered law or just a strong suggestion?

    • In short, yes they are “laws”.

      To begin with, they are standards as described in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The MUTCD is adopted by reference in accordance with Title 23, United States Code, Section 109(d) and Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 655.603, and is approved as the national standard for designing, applying, and planning traffic control devices.

      States have adopted these standards and state laws define what is legal and what is not. Minor MUTCD amendments exist in some states as well as different wordings of the actual law.

  7. Benjamin Poquiz February 19, 2018

    What about a black broken line sandwiched by two broken white lines

    • I suppose you mean the black paint that is sometimes used in lane striping to help the white lines to stand out. Even if it is used locally in many states, there are no national recommendations and the “black lines” are not mentioned in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. At least not yet.

  8. Thank you so much for ur prompt reply and the link. I do appreciate it for making time. It was so helpful.

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