When a speeder in the HOV lane comes up from behind

The in basket: Jack Carson e-mails to say “My question concerns the laws and proper etiquette for use of the new HOV lanes on Highway 16 and, for that matter, those on I-5 and I-405.
“When driving in the HOV lanes at the speed limit or above, other vehicles commonly approach rapidly from the rear, tailgate for a while, and then pass to the right, often expressing their displeasure in being slowed with hand gestures.
“How does the state patrol want the HOV lanes used? Should those of us who drive the speed limit move in and out of the HOV lane to make way for speeders or should the speeders be passing us on the right?”


The in basket: Jack Carson e-mails to say “My question concerns the laws and proper etiquette for use of the new HOV lanes on Highway 16 and, for that matter, those on I-5 and I-405.
“When driving in the HOV lanes at the speed limit or above, other vehicles commonly approach rapidly from the rear, tailgate for a while, and then pass to the right, often expressing their displeasure in being slowed with hand gestures.
“I am a firm believer in staying out of the left lane except to pass, but the HOV lane seems different. Moving right for every speeder in the HOV lane puts you in the path of speeders in the left lane of the regular traffic lanes, who routinely travel at 10-20 miles over the speed limit, especially on I-5 south of the airport.
“How does the state patrol want the HOV lanes used? Should those of us who drive the speed limit move in and out of the HOV lane to make way for speeders or should the speeders be passing us on the right? Neither option seems safe.”
The out basket: In a word, WSP would like HOV lanes used carefully. That’s not much help to Jack, but Lt. Ken Noland of Bremerton’s WSP detachment says it’s the best advice he can give.
If in the HOV lane next to stop-and-go traffic in the other lanes, it’s not smart to be doing even the speed limit, as one of the crawling cars in the next lane might try to move into your lane at any moment, giving you little or no chance to react. Any driver behind you should be grateful to be making steady progress in such traffic, even if well below the speed limit.
If all traffic is moving at highway speeds, I usually move out of the HOV lane to avoid frustrating a driver behind me wishing to go faster. But it certainly would be within a driver’s rights to stay put and make the speeder make the lane change. It would probably be just one of many lane changes such a driver will make that trip.
If traffic in the non-HOV lanes is able to do 10-20 mph over the speed limit, I don’t see why any driver would care whether he or she was in the HOV lane or not.
If you change lanes, be sure to use the gaps provided on those highways where lanes changes are limited to except for those gaps.

3 thoughts on “When a speeder in the HOV lane comes up from behind

  1. Last summer while driving the I-5 HOV lane between Lynwwod and Everett, on a clear day, light traffic, and no one else in the HOV lane, I received a speeding ticket for going 70 in a 60 mph zone.
    The state patrolman told me that HOV lanes are required to abide by the same speed limit as the rest of the lanes.

  2. Driving behavior/etiquette should be focused on being predictable. Whenever one vehicle passes another on a multilane highway, conflict is created, which increases the risk for an accident. We can eliminate this risk by never going faster than the slowest vehicle, but that would defeat the purpose of a multilane highway.

    The next best way to reduce the risk is to increase predictability by automatically sorting ourselves into slower to faster groups, from the right lane to the left. Simply put, if you are being passed on your right, you are too far to the left. The HOV lanes should be treated as an EXTRA passing lane to the left that HOVs CAN use, not as a travel lane. If you are driving in the HOV lane to show off that you are an HOV, then maybe safety and courtesy are not that important to you.
    In Germany, vehicles traveling at over 100mph safely share the autobahns with vehicles doing less than 50mph because they know that slow is to the right and fast is to the left.

    1. I am a firm believer in keeping right except to pass but when the regular lanes are stopped or going 5-10 miles an hour with barely any room between cars, I should not be expected nor is it practical for me to instantly move over into the regular crowded lane to let someone behind me go a little faster. If the regular lanes are moving realitively the same speed, I will get over but the HOV lane is not a passing lane it is meant for carpools.

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