Towed vehicles, HOV lanes and passengers

The in basket:  Don Geidel of Seabeck asks, “Are passenger vehicles towing travel trailers or boats allowed in the HOV/car pool lanes if two or more people are in the car?”

He hadn’t been able to get an answer, he said.

The out basket: I didn’t see any reason they wouldn’t be, but I checked with Trooper Russ Winger, my State Patrol contact here to be sure. I expanded on the inquiry by asking if it mattered whether the other people were in the towed vehicle, whether it’s even legal for a person to be in a towed vehicle, and whether the rules in that regard are different for pets.

The out basket: Russ replied, “A vehicle with two or more occupants towing a trailer can utilize the HOV lane as long as the combined gross vehicle weight of the two vehicles is less than 10,000 pounds and the vehicle can keep up with the flow of traffic and not impede the flow of traffic in  the lane.

“Persons cannot ride in a towed vehicle, such as a travel trailer or boat. There is no provision against pets riding in a towed trailer, except if the trailer was open to the outside. Then the animal would need to be restrained and secured by leash or container so the animal could not fall out of the vehicle. This is no different than pets in riding in the back of a truck.”

Then Russ did a little expanding of his own, by referencing the  change made just this year in the law on riding in a towed vehicle on a flat-bed tow truck.

People can now do that, when there isn’t room for them in the cab of the tow truck or they have some disability that keeps them from getting into the cab and if they have a means of communicating with the tow truck driver in an emergency. It doesn’t say so, but I imagine the car’s horn would qualify.

I think having a towed vehicle catch fire that isn’t noticed by the towing driver, giving the towed passengers no means of escape is the main rationale for the law in the first place.

The last time I dealt with a limitation based on the weight of a vehicle it was too obvious that I don’t have any real experience in that area, but I think a 10,000-pound combined limit would exclude a lot of fifth wheelers.


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