The carpool lane — that spot where suburban dads become outlaws. As Bay Area commute times increase, it appears that single-driver carpool-lane cheats are on the rise, and the California Highway Patrol is having trouble reigning in the illegal practice.
A vehicle requires three occupants to use the carpool lane on one of the more congested stretches of I-80, but that doesn't stop many solo drivers from pulling into the lane anyway. The Chronicle notes that the number of CHP issued citations for Bay Area carpool cheats was 17,375 five years ago, and is set to surpass 21,000 by year's end.
So what gives? While there's no hard data on the matter, it would be reasonable to assume that longer and longer commute times are inspiring more people to risk the $481 fine and drive in the carpool lane illegally — especially when it is so likely they'll get away with it.
“The carpool lane can be tough [to patrol]” CHP Officer Andrew Barclay told the Chronicle, “especially because the lane is moving faster than the other lanes.”
Barclay told the Chronicle that the most common excuse he hears from people he pulls over in the carpool lane is that the driver “just got into the lane to get around someone.”
It's worth noting that this is not a new problem, and that CHP has tried to crackdown on carpool cheats in the past. The fact that the practice is on the rise suggests that they still have their work cut out for them.