Spotting the HOV lane violator

The in basket: I’ve always wondered how police officers manage to enforce HOV lane rules, with tinted windows on many cars obscuring who’s inside and a law the makes someone lying down in the back seat or even an infant in a car seat a valid second passenger.

Out of curiosity, I watch the Highway 304 HOV lanes coming out of Bremerton when I’m there at rush hour, viewing from the next lane over. It affords me a view of the two front seats of any vehicle coming up from behind me, as windshield tinting is rarely as dark as side window tinting. Even that requires taking my eyes off the car in front of me briefly, always a risky thing to do in bumper to bumper traffic.

One recent afternoon, I saw a state trooper parked on the southbound shoulder of 304 and figured he was watching for speeders in the outside lane anxious to get out of town toward Silverdale, or to get ahead of traffic and cut in closer to the merge with Highway 3.

I turned my attention back to the HOV lane and noticed an expensive gold-colored hard-top sports car with only the driver visible, using that lane.

He was far from the only one, but the car gave the impression of a driver who’s used to doing things his way. I profiled him, I suppose.

When I got across the bridge over Highway 3, there was the sports car on the shoulder with a trooper leaning in the window, the emergency lights flashing on the patrol car stopped behind them.

Was it a tandem HOV lane enforcement by two officers?, I asked Trooper /Russ Winger, spokesman for the local patrol detachment.

The out basket: Russ wasn’t certain, but said, “Our officers do work together in tandem and multiples on occasion. In that particular location troopers can keep an eye out for speeders as well as seat belt and HOV violations. We have radios that allow us to communicate violations and vehicles to other troopers when it would otherwise be difficult, due to traffic, for the observing officer to safely overtake the vehicle and stop it.”

It’s easy to rationalize using the HOV lane when one is alone in one’s car. The lanes’ purpose is to make a long-term impression that you can get through faster if you car-pool or take the bus, reducing traffic and demand for more lanes over time.

But at that given moment, an HOV scofflaw can tell himself  he’s taking his vehicle out of the backup in the general purpose lanes, making things a little better.

The slim chance that I might get caught and have to pay the hefty HOV violation fine is enough to keep me out of them when I’m alone in my car, though.


4 thoughts on “Spotting the HOV lane violator

  1. The HOV lane has no basis in either safety or traffic flow. In fact, it can often be the opposite. On SR-16 towards the Narrows, for example, the HOV is the inside lane, normally reserved for “faster” traffic. But a car wanting to do less than the speed limit (or above, realistically) is quickly overwhelmed in such a lane because it is “expected” that you move right along. Try doing 55 in a 60 in an HOV lane sometime, a perfectly reasonable speed in the outside lane, and see what happens.

    HOV lanes are nothing more than the Nanny State doing some social engineering because the bureaucrats have decided that driving alone is “wrong” and driving in a “carpool” is better “for the environment.” there is no traffic-related reason to have them, and if they were open to all, traffic would flow more smoothly as a result. But then, that’s not what the Nanny State wants. It wants to inconvenience you so that you will change your behavior to conform to whatever they have deemed is “good.”

  2. And two licensed drivers from the same household who wouldn’t be driving two cars to the same event anyway are allowed.

  3. Hmmm… I’ve never heard safety listed as a reason for HOV lanes, in fact carpools that can’t maintain highway speeds when traffic isn’t congested probably shouldn’t use them. However, there are a few benefits that can be seen when HOV lanes are built in areas that see congestion, like improving the reliability of transit schedules, and otherwise reducing the delay of vehicles moving multiple people. Both of these are traffic related reasons and are fairly utilitarian, if you look at FHWA data you’ll see they don’t say anything about environmental benefits.

    Traffic flow being the goal is the reason why we’ve seen some policy changes to scheduled HOV lanes or HOT lanes, increasing the capacity by allowing other vehicles to use otherwise underutilized HOV lanes.

    You just have to accept that the delay of one person time in traffic is valued less than the time of two people, because all of this comes down to understanding that there are two ways to significantly increase the person throughput of a roadway, increasing lanes or increasing occupancy.

    *Worth noting, I rarely carpool or use transit because of the delay it would cause me compared to driving my vehicle alone.

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