Solo in the carpool lane vs. cross double yellows into carpool lane
Both tickets are $100 fines plus penalty assessments, equalling about $490 in Orange and Los Angeles County.
Only crossing the double yellows into the carpool lane is a DMV negligent operator point. This is California Vehicle Code section 21655.8(a). This means that traffic school would benefit a driver facing an alleged violation of this carpool lane section. (That adds another $54 in Orange County, plus paying the traffic school company.)
Driving solo in the carpool (HOV) lane, California Vehicle Code section 21655.5(b), is not a DMV point.
Note that driving solo in the carpool lane requires signs AND markings. This usually becomes an issue in construction zones where the signs are taken down off of the center divider during construction. Regulatory signs are black writing on white background. If you want to fight this in court, be sure to make a video of the area to show the judge. (Have someone else drive the route the same day, or as soon thereafter as possible, while you hold your iPhone, etc., to video the route.) Arguably, this applies to 21655.8(a), as well, because the actual section (see below) states a carpool lane is established pursuant to 21655.5.
Be aware that the excuse of “I went into the carpool lane to avoid a collision” usually does not work since the judge will interpret that as “you were going to fast for the conditions to be able to stop in time.”
Here are the actual code sections:
21655.5(b) The Department of Transportation and local authorities, with respect to highways under their respective jurisdictions, shall place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, signs and other official traffic control devices to designate the exclusive or preferential lanes, to advise motorists of the applicable vehicle occupancy levels, and, except where ramp metering and bypass lanes are regulated with the activation of traffic signals, to advise motorists of the hours of high-occupancy vehicle usage. No person shall drive a vehicle upon those lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices. A motorcycle, a mass transit vehicle, or a paratransit vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked on all sides of the vehicle with the name of the paratransit provider may be operated upon those exclusive or preferential use lanes unless specifically prohibited by a
traffic control device.
21655.8(a) Except as required under subdivision (b), when exclusive or preferential use lanes for high-occupancy vehicles are established pursuant to Section 21655.5 and double parallel solid lines are in place to the right thereof, no person driving a vehicle may cross over these double lines to enter into or exit from the exclusive or preferential use lanes, and entrance or exit may be made only in areas designated for these purposes or where a single broken line is in place to the right of the exclusive or preferential use lanes.