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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 indicate 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 right edge, you are traveling on a divided highway. The yellow line marks the edge of the median or divider. You will see a solid white line on the left edge of the roadway.

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

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 Roadway 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

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  1. 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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