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What shouldn’t qualify as a second passenger in an HOV lane?

A man was cited speeding through Tacoma in an HOV lane, using this doll in the passenger seat in 2017. (Washington State Patrol)

Trying to get away with driving in the HOV lane without a passenger is becoming a more expensive proposition. Fines are being increased to $186, and subsequent violations within two years of the first violation will land you a $336 fine.

“Why do they always make it a weird number like $121?” KIRO Radio’s John Curley wondered.

If the driver is caught with a doll or dummy meant to appear as though there is another passenger in the car, an additional $200 fine will be levied. Which prompts the question: What else shouldn’t qualify as a second passenger?

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“There was story the other day about a guy had a corpse in the car,” Curley said. “And he said, ‘I’ve got a body in the car,’ and they said, ‘Well that’s not fair, it has to be something that’s alive and can drive.'”

Following that logic, Curley wondered why drivers are allowed to use babies as their second passengers.

“Well then what about a baby? Would you rather have a baby driving the car or a corpse?” joked Curley. “It doesn’t make any sense. The reason I’m in the car with this other person is that they’re not driving their car so we’re carpooling together.”

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While some see driving with a baby in the HOV lane as a form of cheating, it’s technically allowed and part of the spirit of the law, according to Washington State Troopers. The passenger’s age or ability to drive appears to be irrelevant.

“The reason they do this is because they don’t want to get into a situation where the cop goes, ‘The kid looks 17. Well he’s not 17 he’s only 15. Oh he has a driver’s license.'” Curley said. “So flat out anybody in the car who has a pulse is considered to be somebody else that could possibly be driving.”

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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