Road Rules 101: Can I use the HOV lane to pass if I’m not in a carpool?

Monday, January 6, 2020by  PEMCO Insurance

The answer: No, unless a police officer directs you to drive in the HOV lane to get around a blocking accident, it can’t be used as a passing lane if you have fewer than the required number of passengers. Doing so can be a costly mistake: In Washington, the fine for a first-time HOV lane violation is $186 ($336 for repeat offenders). In Oregon, the initial offense is $260.

In a recent PEMCO Poll, 84% of people said they understand the laws that dictate HOV lane use, and 81% said they never duck into the lane when they know they don't meet the requirements. Yet about two-thirds said they see other drivers abusing the carpool lane.

More young drivers fess up to sometimes using the lane when they're not supposed to – 23% versus only 8% of older drivers. We're not sure if that means they do it more or they're just more honest about their behavior!

You can check out the full PEMCO Poll and see "Seven tips for rideshare/carpool newbies."

NOTE: While we're experts in loss prevention and home/auto safety, we don't consider ourselves experts in traffic laws or their enforcement. Information shared here is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have legal concerns, we urge you to contact a law enforcement source or attorney in your community.

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Comments on this post

personRichard Kennedy01/09/2020 12:10 AM
I have a different question on HOV lanes. When my wife and I are on State Route 167 in the Green River Valley, we are tailgated while in the HOV lanes even through we are doing the speed limit. Cars behind us flash their lights and occasionally honk. Are we required to merge into a general purpose lane?
personJoyce Kehoe01/08/2020 05:37 PM
I get really tired of hearing about left lane violators. They are not the biggest violators. It’s speeders. Remember: It’s not a suggestion it’s the law.
personCurt C01/07/2020 09:32 AM
One of the most common errors that I notice in the greater Seattle area are drivers not reading the time slot that the HOV lane is in effect.  Many HOV lanes become the 'fast' lane after 7:00pm and you still see HOV's not obeying the law of 'keep right except to pass'.  I even received a warning letter for driving as a single occupant in the HOV lane  - - -  but, the person who reported me failed to notice it was after 7:00pm and no longer an HOV lane!!
personAnn Kollock01/07/2020 05:14 AM
I agree with David Madsen’s comment.
personRobert01/06/2020 06:04 PM
I wish WSP would write more tickets for ‘left lane campers’ so people are not tempted to use the HOV lane to get around them.
personAaron Stavens01/06/2020 05:36 PM
They didn't say young drivers are more likely to be honest. They said they don't know if that's a factor. I assume they simply don't have the data to support the assertion one way or the other. What they are really pointing out is a potential bias a reader might have that could lead to an incorrect assumption without supporting data.
personDavid Madsen01/06/2020 04:53 PM
I'm insulted that you think young drivers more likely to be honest about HOV violations than older drivers. Probably best not to make an assumption.

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