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HOV Infractions Face Increased Fines In Washington State

  • By: Antonio Garguile, Esq.
  • Published: August 19, 2019
Washington State map

As of July 28, 2019, new HOV lane laws went into effect increasing penalties for HOV and carpool lane violators in Washington State. Beginning this summer, drivers caught misusing HOV lanes will not only be penalized with paying higher fines, but now will also face an entirely new fine if caught using the carpool lane with a dummy, doll, or other decoy posing as a passenger in an attempt to utilize the HOV lane.

Under Senate Bill 5695, the state Legislature approved penalty increases for violators of HOV lanes, as well as high occupancy toll (HOT) and express toll lanes (ETL) regulations.

Changes to the HOV law now include:

  • Raising the initial violation fine from $136 to $186.
  • Creating a $336 fine for a second offense and subsequent repeat violations within a two-year period.
  • Adding a $200 fine for anyone caught trying to use a doll or dummy or other item in order to make it appear as another person is in the vehicle. The $200 fine is in addition to the violation fine, creating a possible maximum fine of $536.

Last September, Washington State Patrol troopers cited 1,671 carpool lane violators within just one week throughout Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties as part of an emphasis patrol funded by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Seventeen of those drivers were pulled over more than once within the same week for repeatedly using the HOV lane as an unaccompanied driver. While it’s no mystery that traffic and commute wait times in Washington State are listed among some of the worst in the nation, avoiding the temptation to drive in designated HOV lanes ultimately will save you the headache and financial burden of getting an infraction in the end.

According to the official bill, lawmakers described the escalating penalties as a rebuke to discourage repeat offenders from misusing the carpool lane. HOV violators prevent both carpool and regular lanes from operating as intended to help traffic flow more freely. The new legislation states that drivers violating HOV lane requirements “frustrate the state’s congestion management, and justifiably incite indignation and anger among fellow transportation systems users.”

It’s easy to understand the utter frustration that occurs while sitting in traffic and seeing cars in HOV and express lanes move past roadway congestion with ease; but getting a ticket for violating HOV laws isn’t the only repercussion that drivers will face if caught. In Washington State, an HOV infraction is considered as a moving violation, which occurs when a traffic law is broken by a vehicle in motion. HOV infractions will stay on a driver’s record for 3 years and have been known to raise insurance rates by up to 18%.

As troopers begin to crack down this summer, Washington drivers are encouraged to think of the new penalties set in place as an incentive to be a responsible driver and to better understand the rules of the road. HOV lanes were designed to maximize the movement of people rather than vehicles, which helps manage traffic and allows drivers to better navigate congested roadways while lowering the risk of accidents.

HOV is an acronym for high occupancy vehicle, and these designated lanes are intended for carpools, transit vehicles, ride-shares, and motorcyclists. By reducing the number of solo drivers on the freeway, carpool lanes effectively allow drivers to avoid roadway traffic in high-volume areas while driving at faster speeds in both the HOV lane and all other general-purpose lanes. Studies by Washington State Transportation Analysts have shown that HOV lanes not only motivate commuters to travel together, but also showed that most HOV users would revert back to solo freeway driving if the special lanes allowed everyone to use them, creating more traffic for everyone.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) provides different types of HOV lanes along Interstate 5, Interstate 90, Interstate 405, State Route 16, State Route 167 and State Route 520.

Standard HOV lanes are typically located on the left inside lanes and are labeled by signs along the highway with diamond symbols painted on the pavement. These lanes are generally separated from the others on the highway by a solid white line. The HOV lane requires 2+ or 3+ persons per vehicle, depending on the highway and time of day. Motorcycles, as well as emergency and law enforcement vehicles also possess the right to use standard HOV lanes.

Express Toll Lanes (ETL) and High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes are a form of HOV lane that can also be used by non-HOV drivers, who choose to pay a toll in order to cruise past traffic. While the two types of lanes are very similar, they require drivers to have a Good To Go! pass on their vehicle in order to utilize the benefits of these special lanes.

New signs have been placed along several highways throughout the region with a reminder of the new increased fines that HOV lane violators will now face. While it may seem like a harmless solution to avoiding gridlock, misuse of the HOV lane isn’t worth the risk of getting an infraction among the other long-term consequences to follow. While HOV tickets can be difficult to get dismissed, with the help of a skilled traffic ticket lawyer, tickets can usually get reduced to a non-moving violation.

If you have received a HOV ticket, our firm at Garguile Law is here to help. Named as one of Washington State’s top traffic ticket defense attorneys, we proudly service clients throughout The Greater Puget Sound area and have successfully fought over 10,000 traffic ticket infractions. Garguile Law will help you save your time and money by handling the extensive and confusing legal process for you.

Our award-winning law firm makes the entire process as easy as possible by offering Strategy Sessions over the phone, so you don’t have to worry about coming in for an appointment. If you have recently been issued a HOV violation ticket in Pierce, King or Snohomish Counties give us a call today for a free consultation!

Antonio Garguile, Esq.

About the Author Tony was born and raised in Bremerton, Washington. He is an
energetic attorney and currently focuses his attention on the
representation of clients in both civil and criminal traffic matters.