Carpool lanes, otherwise known as HOV lanes, are basically empty lanes on the left side of congested freeways, which are usually backed up for miles. The fines for riding in the carppol lane by yourself, if you get a ticket and opt to plead guilty, are pretty hefty. California currently charges $381, an obscene amount.
I once was driving to court in Orange County and it was rush hour traffic. It was a virtual parking lot, and I knew I would miss the court date in the morning if I stayed in the regular lanes. So I crossed the line and sailed past literally thousands of parked cars on the 57 south. I was suing a drunk driver (and her deadbeat insurance company) who had crashed into me earlier in the year, so I did not want to miss the trial. It was an open and shut case, the max in small claims at the time, which was $5000. The judge slammed her gavel down and ruled for me in a simple matter of minutes, so choosing the rebel route was proven well worth the risk.
If you ever have such an emergency, you may want to know the following info from the CA DMV.
Merely driving in the carpool lane alone is a violation of CVC 21655.5(b), “Failure to obey sign posted preferential traffic lane(s); exceptions – motorcycles, mass transit buses, and paratransit vehicles.” It does not carry any violation points added to your record, so your insurance will not go up. It will appear on your driving record though, as a zero point violation. The problem is when you cross the double yellow line to enter a carppol lane. Whether you’re by yourself or with someone else, doing this may result in a citation for CVC 21655.8.(a). It reads as follows:
- Entering or Exiting Exclusive or Preferential Use Lanes 21655.8. (a)
- Except as required under subdivision (b), when exclusive or preferential use lanes for high-occupancy vehicles are established pursuant to Section 21655.5 and double parallel solid lines are in place to the right thereof, no person driving a vehicle may cross over these double lines to enter into or exit from the exclusive or preferential use lanes, and entrance or exit may be made only in areas designated for these purposes or where a single broken line is in place to the right of the exclusive or preferential use lanes.
California used to issue spoecial yellow stickers allowing hybrid vehicle owners to ride in the carppol lane alone, but their quota for the stickers has been met, so they are not issuing any more: “The 85,000 Clean Air Vehicle Stickers (yellow) that VC §5205.5 allows for hybrid vehicles have been assigned. Original Clean Air Stickers will no longer be issued to hybrids; however, substitute stickers may be issued if the original is damaged.”
The Department of Transportation has a FAQ sheet on HOV lanes that reveals some interesting information. George H.W. “skull and bones” Bush was responsible for two laws expanding and encouraging these carpool lanes nationwide. Here is an excerpt of some questions and answers from that page.
- Currently, there are some 126 HOV freeway projects in 27 metropolitan areas in the U.S. These HOV facilities include over 1,000 route miles.
- 8.Is it legal to restrict publicly-funded highway lanes to HOVs?
- Most state Departments of Transportation have the legal authority to regulate use of the highways, as long as the rules are applied fairly and serve a public benefit. Also, federal legislation – the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 – specifically encourage states to consider, and implement, if feasible, HOV lanes in areas experiencing air quality or traffic congestion problems.
Public agencies, such as State Departments of Transportation and transit agencies, construct and operate HOV lanes, often with federal funding support…in California, a private company has built a toll road on State Route 91 which serves carpools. (Note: SR 91 will charge carpools and all users starting in Dec. 97.)
- 10.How are HOV lanes enforced?
- All HOV projects rely on state or local police officers to monitor and enforce HOV lane requirements. In Washington State, a “HERO” program adds an element of self-enforcement, by encouraging commuters to report HOV lane violators to the State Police.
- 11.What happens to drivers who violate HOV lane rules?
Violators can be stopped and cited by the enforcement officer monitoring the HOV lane, or simply re-directed back into the slower-moving general purpose lanes. Fines accompanying the citation vary from state to state, from $50 in Massachusetts to over $300 in California depending on the number of citations offenders have received.
Related: Why everyone should fight their traffic tickets- every time
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Be sure to visit my complete traffic archive at LibertyFight.com.