Some drivers get creative pretending they are eligible to use the HOV lanes by putting a dummy in the passenger seat. These photos show a few of the “passengers” confronted by Washington State Patrol troopers in the past few years. (Washington State Patrol)

Some drivers get creative pretending they are eligible to use the HOV lanes by putting a dummy in the passenger seat. These photos show a few of the “passengers” confronted by Washington State Patrol troopers in the past few years. (Washington State Patrol)

Dummies used by carpool violators could lead to a $200 fine

Lawmakers want to target serial offenders with a new penalty and much higher fines for tickets.

OLYMPIA — Carpool lane scofflaws could face a $200 fine for traveling with a doll or dummy in the passenger seat in hopes of evading capture.

And, those nabbed for repeatedly driving in those lanes without a carpool could face much steeper fines.

How high is yet to be settled.

On Monday, the state House Transportation Committee approved a Senate bill to hike the cost of a ticket to $186, up from the present $136. Drivers caught a second time within two years would face a $336 fine. A third violation in the same 24-month period could cost $686.

In addition, the legislation calls for tacking on a separate $200 penalty if a doll, mannequin, or other human facsimile is used to make it appear there is an additional person in the vehicle traveling in the high occupancy vehicle lane.

It cleared the committee on an 18-13 vote. Lawmakers in both parties expressed a desire to reconsider the fine amount for a third offense before the bill reaches the House floor for a vote.

“I am going to be a yes vote but I have concerns,” said Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, a committee member and former Washington State Patrol trooper. “It is frustrating to see people driving in our HOV lanes.”

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, authored Senate Bill 5695 to tackle a worsening problem that he has said contributes to slower travel times in lanes reserved for buses and vehicles with multiple occupants.

Originally, he proposed penalties of $242 for a first offense, $499 for a second and $755 for a third.

Amendments made in the Senate trimmed the increases and added the separate penalty for traveling with a mannequin in an attempt to evade capture.

Another significant change regards how some of the fine revenue would be spent. Distribution of the base penalty of $136 would not change under the legislation. Of the amounts above that, 75 percent would go into the motor vehicle fund used to pay for the state’s transportation system and 25 percent into a new Congestion Relief and Traffic Safety Fund.

Liias said Monday he’s watching how the House addresses the amounts of the fines. He’ll be glad if the state passes a law to increase them.

“To me it’s more about getting enhanced penalties in place to get people to follow the laws,” he said. “I’m excited we’re going to move forward on sending a message to drivers: Don’t cheat.”

Senate Bill 5695 is in the House Rules Committee. It must be passed by the House by April 17 to remain alive in the session.

Then lawmakers in the two chambers would need to reconcile differences before the scheduled end of session April 28.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos

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