Car pool crashers

Just think of the rude people who cut in line while you’re waiting to buy tickets at the movies. How about the people who zip into the parking slot for which you’ve been waiting patiently. Then there’s the inconsiderate rabble who either don’t know how to properly park an SUV or feel they deserve the luxury of straddling two parking spaces.

Of course we all know what these idiots are doing when they’re not committing the inconsiderate acts listed above. These are the people who drive alone in car pool lanes. Anyone who takes a peak at traffic during rush hour along Interstate 95 or I-66 can see a high number of cars with no passengers. Cars on the I-95 HOV lanes are required to have at least three passengers while I-66 HOV lanes require two.

It’s infuriating that taxpayers pay for the HOV lanes as a means of reducing traffic and pollution yet so many feel there is no harm in breaking the laws regulating them. State police – often given the job of enforcing HOV restrictions – are often under staffed or occupied with other segments of Northern Virginia’s gridlocked rush hour traffic system.

On any given morning, single occupant vehicles make up as much as 35 percent of the traffic on I-95 HOV lanes in Springfield while the rate of HOV crashers is around 38 percent for I-66. It’s getting to the point where the loners are clogging the car pool lanes and the public has had enough. It’s the number one complaint phoned into the Virginia Department of Transportation and the State Police.

VDOT is putting out some extra money beginning today to pay State Police officers overtime to concentrate on the HOV lanes during “Operation No Excuses.” According to state transportation officials, anyone getting caught alone on the HOV lanes during rush hour will be ticketed, regardless of how creative the excuse might be.

It’s tough to determine how effective this enforcement sweep might be. Habitual HOV offenders may simply avoid crashing the car pool lanes this week only to return to their life of crime later this month. For many, the threat of a fine is no deterrent to saving time on the way to and from work.

Fines for HOV violators range from $50 for the first offense to $500 when the fourth offense occurs within three years of the second offense. A real deterrent would be to simplify the punishment for all HOV violators.

The state must pass laws that put the fear into commuters. Just as teens have their driver’s licenses suspended automatically when only a trace of alcohol is found on their breath, the state should suspend the licenses of those trespassing in the HOV lanes without the minimum number of passengers. The second offense should be a lengthy suspension – at least three months. This would require the repeat offender to find a ride to work. This could be through riding the bus, standing in the slug lines or hitch hiking. Either way, they won’t have the opportunity to clog up the HOV lanes.