High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane violators will be paying higher fines starting this week – including a new fine for people using a doll or dummy to try and cheat the system.

A change to state law, effective Sunday, July 28, not only increases the existing fine it also adds a higher fine for repeat offenders and a new fine for those who use a fake passenger in their vehicle. The new maximum fine will now be $536.

The state Legislature approved the changes (pdf 106 kb) during the past session. The changes apply to violations of HOV, high occupancy toll (HOT) and express toll lanes (ETL) regulations.

The changes to the law include:

  • Raising the initial violation fine from $136 to $186.
  • Creating a $336 fine for a second and subsequent repeat violations within a two-year period.
  • Adding a $200 fine for anyone caught trying to use a doll or dummy or other item to make it appear another person is in the vehicle. The $200 fine is in addition to the violation fine, creating a possible maximum fine of $536.

The new legislation states that those violating HOV lane requirements “frustrate the state’s congestion management, and justifiably incite indignation and anger among fellow transportation systems users.” In the official bill language, lawmakers described the escalating penalties as a “rebuke” to discourage repeat offenders.

HOV violators prevent HOV and other lanes from operating as intended to help traffic flow more freely.

HOV lanes are designed to maximize the movement of people rather than vehicles. They usually move more people than a general purpose lane, even when they don’t look full. In addition to allowing carpoolers to travel in them, HOT and ETL systems also allow drivers traveling alone to purchase a more convenient travel time by paying a toll. More specifics about HOV, HOT and ETL times and carpool numbers are available online.

HOV violations are one of the top traffic complaints the Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol receive. New signs will be posted along several state highways reminding travelers of the new maximum fines.

During an emphasis patrol in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in September, WSP troopers gave out 1,671 HOV violations, including 17 drivers who were ticketed on two separate occasions and one driver who received three HOV violation tickets during the week-long emphasis patrol.

HOV violators can be reported to the WSDOT HERO program online or by calling 1-877-764-HERO (calls should be made when it is safe to do so, which might mean pulling over if necessary).

Comments