Expensive fines for illegal carpool use

ABC7 Eyewitness News: What's Bugging You?
LOS ANGELES Last year, /*California Highway Patrol*/ officers ticketed more than 12,000 people who drove in the carpool by themselves. Drivers who shouldn't be using those high-occupancy-vehicle lanes are bugging lots of Eyewitness News viewers.

CHP officers say illegal use of carpool lanes is one of their major complaints. Eyewitness News received a lot of viewer e-mails about it too. It's illegal for solo drivers to use the HOV lanes, and it's illegal for drivers with passengers to cross the double yellow lines.

"Especially in the morning commute," said CHP Officer Leland Tang. "They're in a hurry, they need to get to work, they don't want to be late."

Eyewitness News went out with the CHP during morning rush-hour traffic, and it was amazing how many people were breaking the law: easily about one in 10 drivers should not be there.

"I just did something wrong and illegal," said driver Lauren Levy after being pulled over for crossing over the double yellow lines separating traffic lanes from HOV lanes. "I was wrong to do it. I never do it. [My daughter] knows what a great driver I am. I follow the rules. But I did it. I wanted to take advantage of the carpool lane, and I crossed over the line. And that was wrong."

CHP officers say it's not as if drivers are unaware of the law. They say everyone they pull over knows that it's illegal, but they do it anyway.

Eventually you will get caught. The CHP is aggressive with HOV violators. They say it's all about safety. The regular lanes might be at a standstill while the HOV lanes are moving quickly. Cutting in can be very dangerous.

"If you have a car that crosses over the double-yellow lines in front of you, your reaction time and your stopping distance is decreased and causes a very, very hazardous situation. We've had a lot of injury collisions as a result of it," said Tang.

Motorist Rafael Coral insists he did nothing wrong. He says there is so much traffic, it's frustrating.

"I guess it makes people do drastic measures at certain points," said Coral. "I had to [take a drastic measure], you know? I mean, in a way it was beneficial for me, but it wasn't my intent."

Officers say either way it's breaking the law. As violators get bolder, enforcement gets tougher, and it's an expensive ticket meant to hurt.

Trying to save a few minutes on your commute will cost at least $380 or more.

Eleven-thousand drivers in Los Angeles County were cited just for crossing those double yellow lines separating the carpool lane last year. The CHP says drivers are right on pace to match that number by the end of this year.

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