High Occupancy Vehicle lane (HOV), also referred to as the car-pool lane, is a lane reserved for vehicles with a driver who has one or more passengers traveling with them. These lanes are usually created in order to reduce traffic congestion. However, if you’re driving alone and a law enforcement officer directs you into an HOV lane, are you at risk of getting a ticket?
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is responsible for HOV lane enforcement. An officer or emergency service vehicle may override the signage, and you should abide by their direction. Yet, if you willingly enter an HOV lane without any passengers and are stopped by an officer, you could risk a ticket worth $490.00 at minimum (DOT.ca.gov). Other vehicles, such as motorcycles, charter buses, low-emission/ green vehicles with HOV stickers, and/or single-occupancy vehicles paying a toll, are allowed to utilize the HOV lane (California Vehicle Code Act §§21655.5).
Traveling in an HOV lane is a viable alternative to fighting traffic, but they may also increase your chance of being involved in a collision. Researchers with the California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH), analyzed accident data for two types of carpool lanes in California. “Continuous” HOV lanes are where drivers can enter or exit the HOV lane at any point, and “Limited Access” HOV lanes restrict cars from entering or exiting at any time. Limited Access lanes only allow a driver to enter or exit at a pre-determined location.
While these lanes promised to provide a smoother travel and less traffic congestion, they also attributed to over 90% of all rear end and sideswipe collisions. “The findings from this research show that the HOV facility with limited access offers no safety advantages over the one with a continuous access,” the California study concluded. “The combined collision rates of the HOV and its adjacent lane were higher for the HOV facility with limited access.” Safety Evaluation of HOV Facilities in California
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