Driving on Highways
HOV Carpool Lanes

Special Highway Areas: Driving Through Toll Booths, Carpool & HOV Lanes

Updated Dec. 11, 2020

While using highways, you may encounter areas that require different driving behaviors, or where a different set of rules apply. Understanding how areas like HOV lanes and toll booths must be used will help you to stay out of danger and avoid getting a ticket.

HOV & carpool lanes

High-occupancy vehicle or HOV lanes are present on many stretches of freeway. Using HOV lanes incorrectly is an offense for which you can be fined. These special lanes are designed to ease congestion, by encouraging travelers to carpool or use buses. They can usually be identified by diamond-shaped road markings and road signs.

Motorists may only use an HOV lane if they meet the minimum occupancy requirement, as stated on the HOV sign. Usually, this is two or three occupants, including the person driving.

If you choose to use an HOV lane, keep in mind that it may only be entered and exited at designated points which are marked by a broken white line. Dipping in and out of an HOV lane is not permitted if it involves crossing double white lines.

HOV lane requirements may only apply within certain hours. If this is the case, the hours during which the rules apply will be included on the road sign marking the lane. If no hours are listed, you can assume that minimum occupancy requirements must be met at all times.

Toll booths

Drivers must pay a toll to use some roads and bridges. If this is the case, toll booths will be set up across the road. On highways, there are likely to be multiple toll booth lanes to accommodate the high volume of traffic. Booths may be manned, unmanned, restricted to a certain method of payment or reserved for certain types of vehicles. This information will be clearly indicated by large signs above each lane, allowing drivers to merge into an appropriate position in advance.

Watch out for toll booth signs while traveling on a highway and be prepared to reduce your speed as you approach. Green or red lights may be active above toll both lanes, indicating which booths are open. Be aware that some drivers may attempt to cross traffic at the last moment while approaching toll booths if they have so far failed to get into the correct lane.

Use caution when merging back into the flow of highway traffic beyond the toll booth. Accelerate smoothly and check around your vehicle for a safe space to merge.

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!


Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 5 votes.

Read next

Step-by-Step Instructions to Exiting a Highway
Driving on Highways 9 of 10

Exiting a Highway

While exiting a highway is nowhere near as difficult or intimidating as entering one, there is still a lot that can go wrong. Learning how to exit a highway safely is a skill like any other you will learn in preparation for your driver’s exam. It will not require you to merge with traffic as you do when entering the highway, though it still deserves considerable attention.

Highway Construction Zones
Driving on Highways 10 of 10

Highway Construction Zones

Highway construction zones present additional risks to drivers and the construction workers themselves. You may encounter signs, signal devices, cones and traffic control personnel, all in place to warn motorists and guide them around the work zone safely. Slow down is the number one rule. Keep an eye out for speed limit signs and workers occupying the road.

Highway Driving Safety
Highway Driving Safety 1 of 4

Highway Driving Safety

There are additional rules, safety tips and considerations which all drivers must keep in mind when using limited access highways. A great deal can be done to minimize the risk of being involved in a highway accident – though we cannot eliminate that risk altogether. This vital conclusion to our highway driving section reiterates the safe highway driving practices you must adhere to, discusses the importance of planning for your trip and teaches you how to handle an emergency on the highway.

Driving on Highways 2 of 10

Understanding Highways

Highways are usually the best roads to use when traveling long distance. These roads are also known as expressways, limited access highways, interstate highways, turn pikes, toll roads and freeways. Freeways are only our country’s safest roads when you know how to drive on them correctly. When traveling at high speed, amidst large volumes of traffic, enormous trucks and ever-changing conditions, motorists must be at the top of their driving game.

Driving on Highways 3 of 10

Highway Driving Approaches

Despite occurring far less frequently, collisions on highways are usually more severe than collisions on other roads. When high speeds are involved, the chances of a collision resulting in fatalities are much greater. Making a mistake on a highway could cost you your life.

Driving on Highways 4 of 10

Highway Safety Features

Many highly effective safety features have been implemented on interstate highways around the country over the past few decades. These features are designed to cut back on collisions, reduce off-the-road crashes and minimize annual highway fatalities by making the crashes that do occur less severe. Thanks to the improvements made under the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), United States highways are now among the safest roads in the world.

Driving on Highways 5 of 10

Entering a Highway

It is important to learn the proper procedure for entering a highway - especially where acceleration and merging are concerned. Merging with high-speed traffic can be dangerous and presents a real challenge for less-experienced drivers. The secrets to safe and successful freeway entry are being vigilant, signaling and matching the speed of existing traffic.

Driving on Highways 6 of 10

Choosing A Lane on A Highway

The speed at which you are traveling will also somewhat determine which lane you should choose to occupy. While avoiding all unnecessary lane changes, motorists must be prepared to change lanes whenever doing so creates a safer driving situation. The distance remaining until your intended exit will also influence your choice of lanes.

Driving on Highways 7 of 10

Highway Driving Maneuvers

Making any maneuver on a highway will put you at risk, as the high density of traffic and high speeds involved leave little room for error and a small window of time in which to act in response to a threat. The key to maneuvering safely on an expressway is maintaining enough space around your vehicle, keeping up with the flow of traffic and scanning ahead for potential dangers.