Hitting HOV violators where it hurts — their wallets

Feb 5, 2019, 12:35 PM
HOV lane violators, rules of the road...

You probably see HOV violators all the time, especially on the ramps to freeways. The police do occasional emphasis patrols, but they don’t seem to change the behavior.

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If enforcement doesn’t do the trick, is it time to hit violators’ wallets? This is something we brought up last summer after the distracted driving penalties went up. They now increase on multiple offenses. Should the HOV penalties go up as well?

An HOV ticket runs you $136 each time. For many violators, that just isn’t a deterrent, considering the low likelihood of getting a ticket. In Oregon, the fine is $260 for a first offense, and that can go up on repeat offenses. In California, the fine is $490-dollars, and it can go up as well on repeat offenses.

Washington State Trooper Rick Johnson said the fine doesn’t appear to deter anyone.

“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 year then I’m good.’”

I know several people who fall into this category. It’s risk-reward, cost-benefit for them. That might change if a bill being heard in Olympia today. It would drastically increase the HOV fines. $136 for the first offense.  More than $225 for the second and more than $350 dollars for a third or more. The bill does not put a timeline on them. Unlike the distracted driving penalties, which have a five year window.

Trooper Johnson said it’s hard to nab violators because there are few places to pull them over safely, and troopers are usually busy with crashes and other emergencies during the times when most violations occur, but he said violators do make other drivers’ blood boil.

“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.”

The state patrol pulled-over more than 11,000 HOV violators in King County alone in both 2016 and 2017. More than 400 each year were repeat violators. The numbers were tracking the same for last year. In a recent emphasis patrol, troopers pulled-over more than 1,700 violators — 17 of them were repeat offenders. One was ticketed three times.



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Hitting HOV violators where it hurts — their wallets