Over the years, Washington State Patrol troopers have seen no end to the ways people try to sneak into the HOV lane to get through traffic a little faster.
“Some folks get very creative,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Guy Gill of District 1, which includes Pierce County, said in 2015. “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.”
But sneaksters and cheats might want to think again if a plan to crack down on HOV violators passes the state Legislature.
Under a bill proposed by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, drivers caught violating HOV laws the first time would face a slightly higher fine than they currently do. The next time, the penalties would be hundreds of dollars more.
The latest version of Senate Bill 5695 calls for first-time fines of $186. The second offense would cost a driver $336. Each subsequent infraction within a two-year period would result in a $686 penalty.
Drivers using a dummy, doll or other fake passenger would have to pay an additional $200 penalty, KING 5 reported.
HOV cheating is a perennial problem. The State Patrol has said it is the No. 1 complaint from commuters in King County.
When Gill was a spokesman for the State Patrol in 2015, he tweeted 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.
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.
A few legendary HOV stops have involved the deceased. A man driving a hearse argued that the body in the casket counted as a passenger. Another was transporting the remains of 36 cremated bodies and “stated that since all the remains still had Social Security numbers, they were considered people,” a WSP spokesman said.
And heads-up, dog lovers: If your pooch is sitting in the passenger seat, that doesn’t make it a passenger.