Criminal Law

Follow the Rules When Using HOV/Car Pool Lane

Rush hour. For many who drive to and from work, those words spark angst, anger, and headaches. Many US cities try to ease traffic during rush hours, and as a recent incident in New York shows, the benefits make some driver's cheat.

They're Not Just for Crashes Anymore

On most days, her car may have gone unnoticed as it traveled in the car pool or "HOV" lane on the Long Island Expressway. In fact, it may have gone unnoticed for months, even years. But not today.

As a 61-year old New Yorker drove past a Suffolk County sheriff's car, the deputy noticed something odd. The passenger in the car was wearing sunglasses and using the sun visor, but the sky was overcast. When the deputy pulled the car over, he found the "passenger" in the car was in fact a female mannequin (from the torso up). It had a wig of long dark hair and it was fully dressed in a shirt, jacket, and scarf.

Why did the driver go to so much trouble? In order to use the Long Island Expressway's HOV lane, a car must have at least two people in it. The dummy made two.

HOV Lanes

Some US cities have car pool lanes to help alleviate rush hour traffic. The idea is to reduce the number of cars on the road by encouraging commuters to drive to and from work with other commuters. Car poolers are rewarded by getting access to a less-congested lane of traffic and, in many areas, a slight increase in the regular speed limit.

Car pool lanes go by many names, such as "HOV" (High-Occupancy Vehicle), diamond (because they usually have a diamond shape painted in them), and commuter or express lanes.

You have to follow some rules to use them, though. Like the Long Island Expressway's HOV lane, car pool lanes are for vehicles carrying more than one person. In some cities it may be two, in others it may be three or four. Other common rules for HOV lanes include:

  • Commercial vehicles, like tour buses and freight trucks, usually can't use HOV lanes
  • In some areas, HOV lane restrictions are enforced only during certain hours, like the morning and evening rush hours. In these cities, any car may use the HOV lane during "off-peak" hours. In other cities the lane restrictions are in force all day
  • Motorcycles and bicycles can use HOV lanes unless they create a safety hazard to their operators or other motorists
  • In many cities, hybrid and other low emission and energy-efficient vehicles may use the HOV lane regardless of the number of occupants

If you have a car pool lane in your area, be sure to check your local laws for restrictions on who may use it and when. If you don't, you may not save the time and money the HOV lane is designed to save you.

In fact, you'll likely lose both. For her little stunt, the driver in New York got a $135 traffic ticket. She either has to pay the ticket or go to court and try to beat it, which won't be easy for her. On top of that, she may get two points placed against her license. That may mean higher insurance rates or even a license suspension if she has too many points.

HOV lanes can save you time and money. You get to work or home faster, and you spend less on gas and parking. You're also "green" in helping the environment by reducing the amount of car emissions. Just be careful to follow the rules.

Questions For Your Attorney

  • If I go to traffic court and lose, will it cost me more than if I had just paid the ticket?
  • Can I get the points taken off my driving record if I agree to take a driver's education course or class?
  • Can my insurance drop me for getting a traffic ticket?
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