Drive in the HOV lane alone? New bill could add stiff fines

TUKWILA, Wash. -- In a rush to pick up the kids, or in a hurry to make it to a meeting — some drivers try to save time by riding in the HOV lane alone.

State lawmakers say it’s a growing problem here in Western Washington, which is why they are now working to pass a new bill that would add stiff penalties for those caught breaking the law.

In the past year in King County, Washington State Patrol handed out more than 11,000 tickets to violators caught in the carpool lane.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Chase Van Cleave has heard just about every excuse in the book from drivers caught breaking this traffic law.

“In this area with so much traffic there’s just a lot of cars that violate that here,” said Trooper Van Cleave. “The point of that lane is to encourage people to ride together and lower the amount of people on our roads.”

One driver caught in the carpool lane without any passengers on I-5 in Tukwila says she was running late to get her son.

“I was just trying to go around the little congestion and I got bombarded,” the driver explained.

Another driver caught violating the HOV lane laws said “I was in the HOV for a short period of time and when I turned around the corner that’s when the state trooper noticed.”

A new Senate bill is hoping to stiffen the consequences for those caught alone in the HOV lane.

“When so many people violate that law it really takes away that lane and the intended purpose,” said Trooper Van Cleave.

If the new bill is passed the cost of a ticket for a HOV lane violation would hike up to $186, that’s $50 more than a ticket currently costs.

If you’re caught a second time it’ll cost $336. For a third strike you’re looking at a $686 ticket.

For those caught trying to trick troopers with a dummy or mannequin, the new legislation would add an additional $200 fine on top of the ticket.

“Ultimately we hope it’s a deterrent so that people obey the law and don’t get in that lane unless they have the right amount of people,” said Trooper Van Cleave. “It keeps it going and used for its intended purpose.”

If this bill is passed, a portion of the money received from the increased tickets will fund the states transportation system and go into a new fund for congestion relief and traffic safety.