Until you travel overseas, you may not think much about road rules. But did you know that while we drive on the right side of the road and keep right, some countries have a keep left rule? The driver’s seat and steering wheel might be on the wrong side too! But can you cross a solid white line on a road? 90% of the time, no, but it depends. Let’s read between the lines.
Can You Cross a Solid White Line?
Understanding Pavement Markings
Roads are typically marked with white or yellow lines. It could be a continuous line, a series of dashes, or even a double line. Typically, white lines show traffic moving in the same direction, while yellow lines mark lanes traveling in opposite directions. If the line is dotted, you can legally cross it to change lanes, but a solid line generally means no crossing allowed.
But even this isn’t set in stone, because you may need to cross a yellow line when you’re taking a turnoff or parking your car. Ordinarily, you’d need to cross a line – yellow or white – when you’re changing lanes or overtaking. But on some roads, overtaking can be extra risky, so you’ll see solid yellow lines that you shouldn’t cross if you value your safety on the road.
In other places, the road only has a single lane in each direction, so you can’t overtake without getting into the opposite lane. Roads like that are likely to have dotted lines instead of solids since there’s no way to use the road without going into the ‘incoming traffic’ lane. You have to drive more carefully to avoid head-on collisions. Make sure no cars are coming!
Where would you find a solid white line though? Most roads have a solid white line next to the curb, or near the edge of the road. That line is designed to protect pedestrians, since crossing it could mean knocking someone over! The curb will keep you in the correct position because it will graze your tires if you try to cross it. But that barrier isn’t always available.
Rural Driving Rules
If you’re driving in a wooded area or country road, the sides of the road might have trees or rocky terrain. In such cases, the solid white line could protect your car. Without it, you may drive into sharp debris, tree trunks, or even wildlife, so you should probably avoid crossing. But if that edge marker is dotted, then that’s a safe spot to pull over for emergency vehicles.
Similarly, pedestrian paths and bicycle lanes are typically marked with solid white lines, and you should never cross them if you’re driving. But even on stretches with solid lines – white or yellow – you’ll find sections with broken lines or gaps. They mark the spots where it’s safe and legal to exit, change lanes, or overtake. Highways often have solid lines near exit ramps.
The carpool lane might have one too. In such cases, the solid white line marks a throughway – the lane that goes straight ahead. So cars in the exit lane shouldn’t cross onto the highway, and cars on the throughway can’t cross into the side lane. These solid white lines transition into dotted lines at the exact point of exit or entry. It prevents side swipes from either lane.
You may find yourself on a seemingly quiet, empty road, but it still has a solid double white line. Or maybe it has double solid yellow lines, sometimes with a black line between them. These markers indicate risky roads where crossing the line could be fatal regardless of the color. The doubling is an extra warning sign, so it’s both illegal and unsafe to ignore that!
Lines, Dots, and Dashes
White lines mean you’re on a one-way street while yellow ones indicate two-way traffic. Within the US, yellow lines can also mark the left edge of the road while white ones can mark the right edge. If the lines are broken, you can cross. But if they’re solid, stay in your lane. You may see a solid white line near a turnoff. As you enter or exit, don’t cross that line.
What happens when a solid yellow line is paired with a broken line? Well, if the broken line is on your side, you can cross it. But if it’s on the other side, don’t cross it. These solid lines are a safety measure, and they let you know it’s unwise to change lanes at that point. Solid lines are common on roads with lots of sharp turns, because overtaking there can be lethal.
In another example, the road might have dotted and solid lines, but both are white. You can cross (with caution) if you’re on the dotted side of the line, but you should never cross from the solid side of the white line. And if all the white lines are solid, don’t overtake or change lanes on that stretch, even though those white lines indicate the same direction of traffic.
In highway scenarios, solid white lines mean ‘turn only, no overtaking!’ So you can cross the line at designated turnoffs, but you can’t legally cross them if you’re driving straight ahead. In most cases, it’s not illegal to cross a solid white line – it’s just not a good idea. But if you’re spotted crossing double white lines (or double yellow lines), you’ll end up in traffic court!
Right of Way … or Maybe Left?
When you’re driving, yellow and white lines aren’t the only road markers. You’ll see traffic signs and other instructions, so weigh them against each other. As an example, special lanes like school crossings might have a mixture of recognizable styles and colors in their road markings. Certain US states have road marking patterns that are specific to that location.
Let’s talk about steering wheel positions. You may have thought left-hand-drive cars are for left-handed people. That’s not necessarily true. It’s not about your dominant hand. It’s more about which side of the road you drive on. If people in your country drive on the right, then the steering wheel is on the left. This happens with most American and European drivers.
But in many commonwealth countries – which were once colonized by the UK – drivers use the left side of the road, which means their steering wheels are mostly on the right. Today, 163 countries drive on the right while 76 drive on the left. But you can’t always generalize. Japan drives on the left while China drives on the right, so it’s best to check specific states.
If you’re driving on the freeway, you’ll see a lot of white lines and other traffic signals. Since it’s an expressway with drivers going at extreme speeds, you need to be extra careful. You can switch between the lanes with dotted lines, but don’t zoom across any solid white lines. And you should be even more cautious if you’re driving a high occupancy vehicle at those speeds.
Traffic Lanes and Crossed Wires
Driving on the left or right side of the road influences how and when you turn your car. So can you cross a solid white line on the road? No, unless you’re entering or exiting the road. But if you’re overtaking, you can’t cross solid white lines. Those solid lines mean you can’t change lanes for any reason at that spot, so wait for a turnoff or a section with broken lines.
Is your car a right or left-hand drive? Tell us what you prefer (and why) in the comments!