Friday, September 26, 2008

HOV Lanes for Dummies

By Karl Vilacoba

Suffolk County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Howard saw right through this scheme.

According to CBS News, the officer was patrolling the Long Island Expressway Wednesday when he noticed an animated conversation going on between a driver in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and his perfectly still passenger. Howard pulled up for a closer look, and what he saw was enough to turn on the flashing lights.

“I asked him for license and registration and he said, ‘Officer is there something wrong?’ And I said, ‘Yes, in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, in the HOV lane, you are required to have two living passengers -- living!”

Police allege a 51-year-old Long Island man dressed up a transparent Plexiglas mannequin with shades, a jacket and baseball cap in an attempt to beat the traffic. New York law requires that vehicles must have two or more occupants to use these carpool lanes.

According to the report, the driver allegedly asked, “Can’t you give me an ‘E’ for effort?” The deputy said he responded, “No, I’m giving you an ‘S’ for summons.” The violation reportedly costs $90 and carries three points.

This isn’t the first scheme someone’s concocted to experience life in the fast lane by themselves. An Atlanta man was caught using the dummy trick in 2001, but in addition to dressing his passenger up, this one was holding a clever prop – an unfolded newspaper. In 2002, a Washington State woman was ticketed for riding with a dummy after reportedly cutting off a school bus and causing a pileup that sent about 20 people to the hospital. And a pregnant Arizona woman pulled over in 2005 for riding alone in the HOV lane contended that her fetus should count as a passenger. The court rejected her claim, contending the standard for riding in HOV lanes was how many seats were occupied.

In a way, all of this speaks well for HOV lanes. The fact that people are willing to go to such lengths to use them would seem to show their success and strong appeal to our highway system’s motorists and their passengers, living, dead or unborn.