High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes are meant to take additional cars off the road, reducing traffic congestion. According to the Washington State Patrol, HOV lane violators is the number one complaint from King County commuters. As of Sunday, July 28th, HOV violators will face increased fines for violations.
High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Rules
To legally use the carpool lane on SR-167 and I-405*, drivers must have two living, breathing, physically present, human beings in the car. Sorry, your dog doesn’t count.
Drivers with a Good-to-Go pass may utilize the HOV lane as a single-occupancy vehicle. Good-to-Go passes do not, however, allow drivers to bypass metered ramps in the HOV lane. Just don’t forget your Good-to-Go pass and drive in the HOV lane, because then you’ll be a violator.
Motorcycles are the only legally permitted vehicle allowed in the carpool lane as a single-occupancy vehicle.
New Fines for Violators
Even in relatively light traffic (Friday, July 26th, 6:30 am on SR-167), HOV lane violators were plentiful. In two minutes approximately 17 violators zipped by. One of the surprising observations were the number of commercial vans and trucks violating the carpool lane laws.
If a violator is caught the new fine for a first offense will be $186. This is a $50 increase from the previous fine. The fine for a two-time violator, within a two-year period, is now $336.
Some drivers like to get creative in their attempts to circumvent the law by placing a mannequin or other human-like item in their passenger seat. While some of these drivers get an A for effort, if caught violating the HOV lane their fake friend won’t be able to get them out of the additional $200 fine the new law adds to their ticket.
Another way violators try to avoid a ticket is by diving out of the carpool lane at the sight of law enforcement. WSP Trooper Chase Van Cleave explained that this is one of the unnecessary dangers HOV lane violators create.
On a final note, if you’re going to buy a Tesla or other environmentally-friendly-smart-car, could you please not violate the HOV lane? It sort of contradicts your car.
*High Occupancy Vehicle/Hot Lanes on I-405 north above Bellevue requires three passengers and a good-to-go pass.