Indiana has some of the prettiest rural roads in the country, but it also has a fair share of large freeways, which help the state’s residents commute to and from work, go to school and run errands, and accomplish many other traveling needs. Many Indiana residents depend heavily on the state’s freeways, and a good percentage of those residents utilize the car pool lanes.
In car pool lanes, only vehicles with multiple occupants are allowed. Vehicles containing only a driver, and no passengers, cannot operate in the car pool lane, or else they will receive a ticket. Because there are fewer drivers carpooling than not carpooling, the car pool lane usually is able to maintain a high freeway speed, even during weekday rush hours. This incentivizes drivers to carpool, which helps eliminate the number of vehicles that are on the road. The result of this is less traffic for other drivers, reduced greenhouse gases emitted from automobiles, and less wear, tear, and damage to the state’s freeways (which means less taxpayer money that is needed for road repairs). As a result, car pool lanes are some of the most important road rules in Indiana.
Car pool lane rules vary from state to state, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the local rules, just as you should with all traffic laws.
Where are the car pool lanes?
Car pool lanes are not incredibly bountiful in Indiana. Relative to many other states, there aren’t very many car pool lanes in the Hoosier state. The car pool lanes that do exist can be found on some of Indiana’s busiest freeways and expressways. Car pool lanes are always located on the far left side of the freeway, closest to the barrier or the oncoming traffic. If there is road work on the freeway, the car pool lane may briefly detach from the rest of the freeway. Occasionally you can make an exit directly from the car pool lane, but most of the time you will have to merge back to the lane on the right if you want to exit the freeway.
Indiana’s car pool lanes are marked by signs on the left side of the freeway, or above the car pool lanes. These signs will state that the lane is a car pool or HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane, or may merely have an image of a diamond, which is the car pool lane sign. The lane itself will also have the diamond image painted on it.
What are the basic car pool lane rules?
The minimum number of occupants that a vehicle must have in a car pool lane varies depending on the freeway that you’re on. In Indiana, most car pool lanes require a minimum of two occupants per vehicle, but a handful of lanes require at least three people. The minimum number of people needed to qualify for the lane will be noted on the car pool lane signs. Even though car pool lanes were added to Indiana’s freeways to increase the amount of workers who carpool into cities, there are no restrictions on who your passengers are. If you are driving your children somewhere you still qualify for the car pool lane.
Most car pool lanes in Indiana are active at all times. There are some lanes, however, that are only active during peak traffic hours, and are all-access lanes the rest of the time. Be sure to check the car pool lane signs to see if the lane you are entering is only open during select hours.
Most car pool lanes have designated areas to enter or exit the lane. This helps maintain the flow of traffic in the car pool lane, so it doesn’t slow down with constant merging. These areas are marked by solid double lines, and sometimes even barriers. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t merge into or out of the lane when there is a barrier, but it is also illegal to do so when there are solid double lines. Wait until the lines are checkered, at which point you can enter or exit the car pool lane.
What vehicles are allowed in the car pool lanes?
Cars with multiple occupants are not the only vehicles that are allowed in the car pool lane. Motorcycles can also legally drive in the car pool lane, even with only one occupant. This is because motorcycles can maintain the speed of the lane, are small enough to not congest the lane, and are safer traveling at a high speed than driving in stop and go traffic.
Unlike in some states, Indiana does not allow alternative fuel vehicles to drive in the car pool lanes with only a single occupant. However, this exemption is becoming increasingly popular as states look for ways to incentivize electric and hybrid vehicles. If you own an alternative fuel vehicle, be sure to keep your eye open, as Indiana may allow these cars in the car pool lane with a single occupant someday soon.
There are a few vehicles that are not allowed to drive in the car pool lane, even if they have multiple occupants. Any vehicle that cannot safely or legally maintain a high freeway speed must stay in the slower all access lane. Examples of these vehicles include trucks with large objects in tow, semis, and motorcycles with trailers.
Emergency vehicles and city buses are exempt from car pool lane rules.
What are the car pool lane violation penalties?
If you drive in the car pool lane without the minimum number of occupants, you will be subject to a pricy ticket. The cost of the ticket varies depending on the freeway, but is usually between $100 and $250. Repeat offenders will likely receive higher fines, and can even be subject to license suspension.
Drivers who cross solid double lines to enter or exit the car pool lanes will be subject to standard lane violation tickets. Those who attempt to deceive traffic officers by placing a mannequin, cut out, or dummy in the passenger seat will be given a more expensive ticket, and can potentially face jail time.
Using the car pool lane is a great way to save time, money, and the hassle of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As long as you pay attention to the car pool lane rules, you can immediately benefit from these lanes.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What are the Car Pool Rules in Indiana? and was authored by Brady Klopfer.