Origins: In an effort to encourage carpooling and thereby ease freeway congestion and lessen environmental impact, many municipalities have added High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to existing highways. HOV (aka carpool or diamond) lanes are restricted to those vehicles that have a stated minimum number of occupants or (in some parts of the U.S.) bear the appropriate stickers granting them that right (i.e. certain hybrid automobiles).
Because they are generally less populated than the rest of the highway, HOV lanes pose a temptation to unaccompanied drivers snarled in the daily commute and wistfully looking over at the more free-flowing diamond lanes. Heavy fines serve to keep most of the covetous to the straight, narrow, and more crowded, but not all. Some singletons choose to brazen it out and take the risk of being ticketed. Others attempt various deceptions designed to make it appear they have passengers in their
And then there are the pregnant women who will, when pulled over for HOV lane violations, claim their unborn children as additional people in their vehicles.
Early in 2006, an Arizona woman tried just that. Candace Dickinson had been fined $367 for improper use of a High Occupancy Vehicle (aka carpool) lane. She was caught driving in the HOV lane on
Sgt. Norton said this was the second time in the last four years that a woman tried to use the defense against him, but the first one was a "whole lot less pregnant" than this driver. (Dickinson's son Cole was born on
Dickinson chose to fight the ticket by asserting in court that Arizona traffic laws don't define what a person is, so the child inside her womb justified her use of the lane.
Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Dennis Freeman used a "common sense" definition of the statutes governing use of HOV lanes in which an individual occupies a "separate and distinct" space in a vehicle. "The law is meant to fill empty space in a vehicle," Freeman said.
The California Highway Patrol sees it the same way:
California law requires that in order to utilize the HOV lane, there must be two (or, if posted, three) separate individuals occupying seats in a vehicle. Until your "passenger" is capable of riding in his or her own seat, you cannot count them.
In January 2006, a driver was stopped and ticketed on
In November 2005, Kevin Morgan of Petaluma, California, was handed a $351 citation in Marinwood for driving in a carpool lane with a kickboxing dummy propped up in the passenger seat. The dummy was dressed in a baseball cap and Miami Dolphins windbreaker and wore a seatbelt.
In March 2002, a motorist with a full-size mannequin as a passenger drove into the car-pool lane on
In 2001, a policeman in Atlanta pulled over a carpool lane violator who'd positioned a dummy in the passenger seat. The mannequin in question was wearing a sports jacket, a pair of sunglasses, and a baseball hat. Best of all, he had been positioned so he was holding a newspaper.
Ruses motorists have used to conceal their driving alone in car-pool lanes:
- Store mannequins, blow-up dolls, kickboxing dummies, cardboard cut-outs, and even balloons (with faces drawn on them in marking pen).
- Buckling the passenger-side seat belt and pretending to talk to someone reclining in that seat.
- Covering an empty infant seat with a blanket or placing a doll in it.
- Taping a styrofoam wig stand to the passenger headrest and topping it with a blonde wig.
- Strapping the family pooch into the passenger seat.
Barbara "diamonds aren't forever" Mikkelson
Last updated: 8 May 2014
Birkland, Dave. "Motorist, Dummy in HOV-Lane Accident." The Seattle Times. 13 March 2002 (p. A1). Grado, Gary. "Pregnant Doesn’t Count in HOV Lane." East Valley [Arizona] Tribune. 11 January 2006. Jamieson, Robert. "HOV Dummy is Not Alone on Roads." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 14 March 2002 (p. B1). Klien, Gary. "Car-Pool Dummy Busted." Marin Independent Journal. 3 November 2005. Ledford, Joey. "Cop Proves to Be Formidable Foe to Faux HOV Riders." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 24 February 2002 (p. C5). Associated Press. "Judge: Unborn Children Don't Count When It Comes to Carpool Lanes." 11 January 2006. Associated Press. "LI Man Ticketed for Using Dummy to Slip into HOV Lane." 17 May 2003. CBS Boston. "Driver Cited For Using Mannequin As Passenger In I-93 HOV Lane." 8 May 2014. WKYC-TV. "Dummy-Busted Driver Dealt a Ticket." 27 January 2006. WPIX-TV. "Driver Busted Using Carpool Lane With Mannequin." 4 February 2010.