What Do the Lines on the Road Mean?
Explanation and examples of all types of white and yellow pavement lines
Whether you’ve had your driver’s license for a long time or are currently learning to drive, a refresher on the meaning of road indicators is always beneficial. You may think you understand all the symbols on the street, but do you really know the rules they prescribe?
For example, do you know what all of the lines on the road really mean according to the U.S. Department of Transportation? To make sure you understand them correctly, read this guide.
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Explanation of 8 common lines on the road
Double solid yellow lines in center
Yellow lines separate two lanes of traffic moving in opposite directions. If there are two solid yellow lines, this means you are not allowed to pass the car in front of you by crossing into oncoming traffic. A double yellow line indicates that passing is not allowed from either side of the road.
Dashed yellow line in center
If the yellow line is dashed, this means that you are free to pass a slow or stopped car by crossing onto the other side of the road if the coast is clear. A single dashed yellow line indicates that passing is allowed from either direction. Treat the opposing lane as a temporary additional lane, using your turn signal to indicate your intent.
Combo of one dashed/one yellow line in center
If both the dashed and solid yellow lines are present, passing is only allowed by one direction of traffic. If the line on your side of the road is solid, you should not pass, even if the other side is dashed. Only the dashed side of the road can pass.
White lines on both sides of road
These solid white lines running along the edge of the road indicate the “shoulder” of the road and let you know that — if the line is on your right side — you’re headed in the same direction as traffic. Both sides will be white if a yellow line is present in the center of the road.
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Yellow line on left of road
If a solid yellow line runs along the left-hand shoulder of the road instead of a white line, that means the road is divided. Instead of the opposing direction of traffic being adjacent to your lane on the same strip of pavement, there is a median dividing the road, splitting it into two non-touching halves.
Dashed white line
A white line separates lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. The dashed lines indicate that you are free to change lanes and stay in that other lane.
Solid white line
Solid white lines also separate two lanes going the same direction. However, if the line is solid, this indicates that you should not change lanes. These are often used in construction areas to discourage drivers from moving around too much, on highway exits to distinguish a separating lane, and to distinguish carpool lanes from the regular flow of traffic.
Zigzag white line on side of road
It’s a rare sight in the USA, but if you come across zigzag white lines here or abroad, this means you should not park your car on that area of the road. If you part your car on a berm with zigzag road lines, you will get ticketed or towed.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.