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)

Lawmakers want carpool lane cheaters to pay a higher penalty

And an extra amount could get tacked on for those who put a dummy in the passenger seat.

OLYMPIA — Drivers who repeatedly sneak into carpool lanes without a carpool may face much heftier fines if caught.

A ticket, which now carries a $136 penalty, would cost $242 under a bill making its way through the state Senate.

If you get nicked a second time, you would pay $499. Get a third and it could cost $755.

And the bill may get tweaked to have an extra amount tacked on for those who put a dummy in the passenger seat in hopes of evading capture.

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

He got really fired up when he learned violators on I-405 toll lanes can be a factor in pushing tolls higher in the commute.

“I was like seeing red at that point so I said let’s throw the book at them,” he told the Senate Transportation Committee at its Feb. 5 hearing on his bill. “People that are breaking the law are not just making us all a little bit slower. They’re actually making us pay more.”

Congestion is lengthening commutes on highways throughout the region and clogging up many stretches of its designated high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

As a result, the carpool lanes are not performing up to state and federal standards which aim to ensure traffic moves at a speed of at least 45 mph, 90 percent of the time during peak commute hours.

In 2017, from Everett to Seattle on I-5, that goal was only met 18 percent of the time southbound for the morning commute and 12 percent northbound for the evening commute, according to a Department of Transportation study presented to lawmakers in January.

The challenge of speeding up traffic is compounded by HOV violators.

Washington State Patrol issued an average of 11,561 tickets a year for violations from 2014 through 2018, according to data compiled in the Judicial Information System.

When troopers conducted a one-week emphasis patrol in central Puget Sound in September, they stopped 1,758 drivers and issued 1,671 citations. They contacted 17 drivers twice and one driver three times.

In the last two years, the state patrol ticketed one person 12 times and another 11. There were 208 people nabbed four times and 50 people ticketed five times.

“Some drivers find it cheaper to pay the ticket than to be late for work,” state patrol Capt. Monica Alexander told lawmakers last week.

One concern raised in that hearing is the difficulty the high fine could pose for a low-income person who may have committed a violation because they were in a hurry to get to a medical appointment or pick up a child.

Liias expressed confidence troopers could discern from a conversation with the driver whether to write a ticket or issue a warning.

Troopers will use discretion, Alexander said.

“We don’t encourage our troopers to write up every person they stop,” she said. “I am sympathetic to low-income families and what this might do to them. But the HOV violation is a choice. We would like to see people that do it correctly rewarded and the people who choose not to do it, we want to give them what they have asked for.”

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Claire Swander, 6 months old, gets an H1N1 vaccine from nurse Soon Ku at Providence Physician Group in Mill Creek on Oct. 31, 2009. The site had lines with a three-hour wait for portions of the morning. (Heidi Hoffman / Herald file)
Vaccine approval for kids a reminder of 2009 H1N1 outbreak

As swine flu scare closed some schools, parents flocked to public clinics to protect their children.

Darren Redick is the new CEO of Providence’s Northwest Washington service area. (Providence Health and Services) 20210514
Providence stays local in selecting a new regional CEO

Based in Everett, Darren Redick will lead the health care provider’s Northwest Washington area.

Two men were hurt after a fire in an apartment Sunday morning south of Everett. (South County Fire) 210516
Two men hurt in apartment fire south of Everett

In all, 16 residents were displaced by the early morning blaze at the Hanger 128 Apartments.

State’s E. Coli outbreak linked to PCC Market yogurt

Statewide, 11 cases are connected to the yogurt, including one in Snohomish County.

Georgie Gutenberg
Death of Lake Stevens woman not suspicious

Police had asked for the public’s help to search for Georgie Gutenberg. She was found dead Sunday.

Firefighters douse the flames at the NOAA Fisheries Building Friday evening in Mukilteo on May 14, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fire damages NOAA site near new ferry terminal in Mukilteo

Smoke flooded the waterfront Friday night as fire crews descended on the abandoned research center.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY. Map shows epicenters for earthquakes greater than 3.0 magnitude between 1969 and 2021. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210509
Life or death: Be prepared for a major earthquake

Resources to help get you, your family and home ready.

Everett man shot while walking his dog identified

Ryan S. McFadden, 33, died of gunshot wounds.

Man killed by train near Snohomish is identified

The Marysville man, 45, was hit Thursday morning south of the Snohomish River.

Most Read