Troopers report, uh, creative attempts by motorists to skirt HOV lane rules.
Apparently, there’s no shortage of dummies to be found on HOV lanes.
Some are even seated next to the driver.
“Some folks get very creative,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Guy Gill of District 1, which includes Pierce County. “We’ve seen mannequins, sleeping bags propped up with hats, articles of clothing, duffel bags, Halloween masks on bags. You name it, we’ve seen it.”
Last week, Gill tweeted out a picture of a child-sized zombie doll that had been buckled into the front seat of the car by a driver who was caught solo in the HOV lane near Tacoma. The trooper cited the driver for the HOV lane violation, a $136 ticket, and also issued a warning for not having the little one in a child seat, Gill said.
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The driver “tried to beat the system but realized he was caught and understood,” Gill said.
“We got a good chuckle out of that one,” Gill said.
“They’re hilarious,” said Trooper Dave Bourland of District 5, which includes Lewis, Klickitat and Clark counties. His region has no HOV lanes, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had his share of amusing moments.
“I once overtook a motorist on eastbound Highway 14,” he said. “As I got closer, he started to speed up, so I stopped him for speeding.”
“As I walked up to the vehicle, he said, ‘Oh trooper, I thought you were someone else. My ex-wife ran off with a trooper, and I thought you were bringing her back.’”
Bourland said he hadn’t heard that one before and it made him laugh, but he gave the driver a ticket anyway.
According to State Patrol spokesman Chris Webb, HOV violations are the No. 1 complaint from commuters in King County. In response, troopers have ramped up enforcement.
This year, the State Patrol issued 3,000 more citations to HOV violators statewide than last year, with 558 issued in Pierce and Thurston counties, 1,446 in Snohomish and more than 9,500 in King County, said Trooper Mark Francis of District 7 in Marysville.
“I think there is frustration that drivers who are violating the HOV lane are cheating … almost like cutting in line,” Webb said.
Though Webb said HOV lane violations are hard to defend “because the violation is so obvious and factual,” people still try to make excuses.
Violators often say they moved into the lane because they’d been cut off, or they were late for work. Sometimes they claim they were “only passing,” or that they forgot their children weren’t in the car.
Other troopers in his district told tales of an HOV stop with a guy who had the remains of 36 cremated bodies. “The driver stated that since all the remains still had Social Security numbers, they were considered people,” Webb said.
Another HOV stop involved a guy driving a hearse with a body in the casket, and he thought “the dead body counted as a person.” In another case, Webb said, a woman argued that her dog was in the passenger seat and counted as a person.
According to the state Department of Transportation, drivers can only use most HOV lanes when there are two or more people in the vehicle. Some, such as Highway 520, require a minimum of three people. The State Patrol said the definition of “people” is not limited by age or licensing status but does exclude animals.