HOV lane etiquette and the law

The in basket: Dan Wierman writes, “Today I made a round trip from Bremerton to Seattle and back. My dad was with me and since there were two of us in the car, I chose to drive in the carpool lane on I-5, even thought the traffic was not too heavy. I rarely get the opportunity to drive in the carpool lanes.
“Even driving at or slightly above the speed limit, cars would catch up with us. Some would just go around to the right of us and many would stay on our tail.
“So my questions are:
– Are we bound by the same congestion rules – I believe it (forbids) holding up five cars or more – while driving in the carpool lane?
– Is it considered ‘camping’ if you stay in the carpool lanes like it is if you drive in a left lane without passing cars?
– Any other insights on how to manage driving in carpool lanes?
“I apologize if these questions have previously been brought up,” he said in conclusion.
The out basket: I have addressed this before, but there’s no need to apologize. It’s been over seven years since I dealt with it directly.
It hasn’t been that long since I addressed his second question, though. About a month ago, I quoted State Trooper Russ Winger in saying that the HOV lane is not considered the left lane for enforcement of the law that requires staying out of the left lane unless you’re overtaking and passing other traffic, leaving room for a freeway merger or preparing to turn left.
The “don’t delay five cars or more” law wouldn’t apply to HOV lanes or any multiple-lane highway. It reads, “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow moving vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line, shall turn off the roadway wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed.”
Seven years ago, I wrote, “If in the HOV lane next to stop-and-go traffic, 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 in such traffic should be grateful to be making steady progress, 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.”
No experience I’ve had since then would change that advice, except having found double white lines separating some big city HOV lanes from the next lane over. It’s illegal to cross over double white lines into or out of an HOV lane except in the gaps between those lines.
Trooper Winger has his own perspective. Though neither of the laws Dan asked about requires moving out of the HOV lane, “motorists using this lane should consider that one of the purposes of the HOV lane, besides reducing the number of vehicles on the road, is to promote the flow of traffic,” he said. “Stacking vehicles behind you, just because you can, is not a good strategy. It promotes ‘bad feelings’ between motorists which can lead to erratic lane changes and road rage.
“I would suggest that drivers occupying the HOV lanes be aware of their speed and the traffic behind them. Move out of the way and let the vehicles by and then reenter the lane. Be considerate and think about the big picture, which is the safe and efficient flow of traffic,” he said..

7 thoughts on “HOV lane etiquette and the law

    1. look out the windshield for traffic ahead and mirrors for traffic behind.I will adjust my speed to allow safe distance between me and the car ahead. on I-5 or other main roads and hiways, congestions are usually common and must be expected.

  1. I don’t see anything that could be interpreted that way. He’s saying move over and let them pass you in the interest of smooth traffic flow
    Road Warrior

  2. Sorry, RW, but that is exactly what the Trooper said. Police seem to ignore 5 or so over the limit, regardless of the lane.

    If I’m doing 60+, and someone wants to pass (hov lane), his prob. If traffic is so heavy that he can’t move over a lane, we are both going too fast.

  3. Denis, if the traffic on your right is smooth and open, and passing you while you putter along in the HOV lane going 62mph, the courteous thing to do is move over to the lane that is traveling at the speed you want to travel. That’s the point the trooper was making. Don’t be a jerk and block traffic in the HOV lane just because it’s legal to do so.

  4. Denis, The police generally, but not always will ignore 10 mph over the speed limit in most areas. Unless you are doing something really stupid out there while going a few miles over the posted speed. The real problem out there on the Freeways is the fact that no matter what lane a driver is in, most do not Want to get over and let a car pass, even while driving in the HOV lane. I know that I do and I do drive fast, but there are drivers out there that want to go faster than me and I am fine with that. I usually set my cruise control on a certain speed and I keep a look out for cars coming up on me. If I see that I may hinder another vehicle from passing or I may slow them down I will just get out of the way. But if I recall in the handbook, I believe it is against the law to disrupt the flow of traffic whether speeding or not and I also recall whether in this state or not, since I have had a few different state licences, that it is illegal to pass a car on the right and if a car does pass you on the right then you are disrupting the flow of traffic. And as someone who works on the interstates doing road repair I see alot of road rage due to slow drivers. I actually saw a couple nights ago out on I-5 a guy stop his car in the middle of I-5 and get out to confront another driver, not very smart in my book, but it happens all the time. People with road rage do not care about the consequences and to me it is not worth my life or my families life to piss off another driver in this day and age. Cause you never know what is going to happen. So just because you are in the right by driving the speed limit in the HOV, dont really make it right to slow others down and if someone whips around you and brake checks you, then you know why.

    So RW is it illegal to pass on the right side of a vehicle?

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