Despite the looming steep fine and points on their licenses, traffic congestion in the Arizona Valley is encouraging more drivers to illegally use freeway carpool lanes.
About 15% of vehicles in the high-occupancy-vehicle lanes of Valley freeways don't carry two or more people or don't run on alternative fuel, which are among the requirements for HOV access, according to a new study done for the Maricopa Association of Governments last year and published recently.
There were 145 miles of carpool lanes when the latest Valley study was conducted. When the previous study was conducted in 1992, the Valley had 27 miles of carpool lanes and the violation rate was 6%.
Eric Anderson, MAG's transportation director, said the agency will review the new study data with the state Departments of Transportation and Public Safety to come up with ways to get drivers to adhere to the law. He mentioned more spot enformcement and posting fines along the roads as possible suggestions.
Valley carpool lanes aren't separated from other lanes by a curb or barrier. That makes it easy for drivers to use the HOV lane as a passing lane or a temporary express lane.
A carpool analysis by the Texas Transportation Institute for the Federal Highway Administration declared a violation rate of 10% or less is a "suitable objective." Rates below 5% are good. Rates exceeding 20% are "unacceptably high."
"When you start to get into double digits, you might have to get into ways to correct it," said Ginger Goodin, a research engineer at TTI and one of the authors of that study.
An HOV violation costs about $350 plus three penalty points on the offender’s driver's license penalty points, the DPS said.