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Warning to HOV violators: Troopers are out to get you

The penalties go up each time you get caught violating the distracted driving law. The first ticket costs $136. The second inside of five years costs you $234. Why not apply the same rules to HOV violations?

State Trooper Rick Johnson knows that for every driver pulled over for violating the HOV rules, that driver has probably gotten away with it dozens of times. To many drivers, he said the $136 fine isn’t a deterrent.

“Some people just view it as the cost of doing business,” he said. “Their time is worth more than the $136 infraction so they think ‘if I factor this in for a couple of years then I’m good.'”

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Trooper Johnson said an HOV violation also doesn’t raise your insurance rates so some drivers think there’s no real harm to violating. Of the more than 11,000 drivers pulled over for HOV violations in King County in each of the last two years, more than 400 of them each year were repeat offenders. This year, there are more than 200 repeat offenders of the nearly 9,200 pulled over.

Trooper Johnson also said that HOV violations can lead to road rage, and it’s one of the most complained about problems on the road.

“There are times where HOV violators have incited road rage and aggressive driving because somebody says ‘OK there’s no troopers here I’m going to show them that they shouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “It frustrates other people.”

That’s why the Washington State Patrol is dedicating 14 motorcycle officers to HOV enforcement in King County, north Pierce County and south Snohomish County this week. It’s a just a gentle reminder that troopers are out there and watching.

“We’re hitting the areas where we get the most complaints,” Trooper Johnson said. “We’ll be hitting I-5, 405, 90 and 520.”

PHOTOS: Dummies used by HOV lane violators

If you’re wondering why you don’t see troopers out doing this more often, Johnson said that during the commutes when most people see the violations, most troopers are assisting with accidents and other problems. And it can be very difficult to find safe places to pull people over.

“We want people to understand that there are some areas where it’s harder and not as safe for us to do that, and it causes a disruption,” he said. “I’m sure that there areas where people think we never work because they don’t see us there.”

But Trooper Johnson assures me that they are always on the lookout for HOV and other violations, and they pull people over routinely.

What do you think? Should the fees go up every time you get nailed for violating the HOV rules? Let us know in the comments below.

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