We all know the bad news without needing headlines to prove it: Western Washington traffic – and drivers – are among the nation’s worst. For many of us, sitting in stop-and-go traffic is mind-numbing and infuriating.
The latest studies offer a litany of proof.
In terms of extra hours spent sitting on congested roads, Seattle drivers ranked #9 and Tacoma drivers #16 in 2016, compared with motorists in other urban areas around the country. To put this in practical terms, the average morning commute from Everett to Seattle in 2016 was 94 minutes, while the morning commute from Federal Way to Seattle was 72 minutes.
Watching drivers cruise by in free-flowing HOV lanes can add to the frustration.
HOV lanes – often called carpool lanes – are intended to help Washington drivers navigate congested roadways, not create extra stress. HOV is an acronym for high occupancy vehicle, and these lanes are intended for carpools, transit vehicles, ride-shares, and motorcyclists.
They were created as an enticement for drivers to reduce their solo trips. In theory, they offer a classic win-win: HOV lane users may zip past stalled freeway traffic, while also reducing the number of vehicles in the clogged lanes. As a result, more travelers can move through high-volume corridors at faster speeds, in both the HOV and general-purpose lanes.
Studies show this strategy works. Washington state transportation analysts say many HOV users would revert to solo travel if the special lanes were eliminated, resulting in jammed traffic in all lanes.
Our state has two basic types of HOV lanes on I-5, I-90, I-405, Highway 16, Highway 167 and Highway 520.
Their rules can seem confusing. Required passenger minimums vary; enforcement may depend on the time or even day of the week; some HOV lanes allow solo drivers to pay extra to use them.
Trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds aren’t allowed to use HOV lanes, although recreational vehicles of any weight may.
In Washington, violating an HOV rule is a traffic infraction under RCW 46.61.165. The courts treat these tickets like other moving violations, such as speeding or rolling through a stop sign or a speeding ticket.
The state Department of Transportation estimates that HOV violation rates in Washington are between 1 and 7 percent, well below the national average of 10 to 15 percent. The state credits its HERO program for that relative success, as frustrated, law-abiding drivers rat on cheaters by reporting their license plate numbers online or by calling toll-free 877-764-HERO. First-time violators identified via the HERO program get a brochure in the mail; additional violations result in progressively sterner letters.
It can be tempting to use HOV lanes as a spontaneous solution to gridlock, whether one is dealing with a bona fide emergency or simply impatient with slow-moving traffic.
It’s easy to not take seriously the potential consequences: an expensive ticket; jacked-up insurance rates; plus the additional delay and frustration of the traffic stop itself.
But troopers are cracking down.
In King County alone, troopers pulled over more than 11,000 drivers per year in 2016 and 2017 for HOV violations, according to the Seattle Times.
Last September, Washington State Patrol devoted a full week to HOV emphasis, pulling over more than 1,700 motorists in King, North Pierce, and south Snohomish counties.
This included creative solo drivers who dressed up dummies and skeletons in failed attempts to cheat undetected.
In Washington, moving violations such as HOV tickets will stay on your driving record for three years.
Since moving violations affect insurance rates, drivers clearly should hire a traffic ticket attorney to fight these infractions.
HOV tickets can be difficult to get dismissed. However, a skilled traffic ticket lawyer can usually get them reduced to non-moving violations.
At Garguile Law, we have successfully fought over 10,000 traffic infractions. So if you recently received an HOV ticket in Pierce, King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Thurston or Lewis counties, give us a call today for a free traffic ticket strategy session. We’ll handle all aspects of your case, from start to finish; in most cases, you won’t even have to go to court.
Save your time and money, and let one of Washington’s top traffic ticket defense attorneys handle the lengthy, confusing legal process for you.
Strategy sessions are done over the phone, so you don’t have to come in for an appointment.
Feel free to contact us today!
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