Sunday, November 22, 2009

Virginia Commuter Receives $1,000 Ticket

Anyone who has driven in Northern Virginia during rush hour (or simply paid attention to the General Assembly debates recently) knows that we have extremely bad traffic situation. To cut down on the time spent stuck in traffic, a lot of people will drive in the HOV lanes even if they don't have anyone else in the car. It's illegal, but a lot of people believe the potential to save a large chunk of time makes it worth the risk of getting caught. After hearing the news that someone received a $1,000 ticket for violating the law for the fourth time in five years, however, I imagine there will probably be some people who are now thinking twice about pulling into the HOV lane unless they have the required number of people in their car.

For those of you who are wondering, the Washington Post reports that the system of fines that resulted in the $1,000 ticket was apparently established several years ago in order to address the large number of people who were driving in the HOV lanes despite only having one person in the vehicle.
The steep increase in fines that brought the bite in Northern Virginia to $1,000 for a fourth offense in five years was enacted several years ago because of the severity of the problem. "The law had no teeth," said a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

Under the new regulations, a first offense is $125, a second is $250 and a third, $500.
Given the outrage over the abusive driver fees that Dave Albo proposed, my initial reaction was that there could be some public opposition to the step cost of these tickets. However, there are some major differences between the abusive driver fees and the tickets for HOV violations. First of all, these aren't fees that are impossed for several years which means that people won't be punished multiple times for one offense. Secondly, since these are tickets instead of fees, drivers who live outside of Virginia will have to pay the costs even they are caught. And finally, these are fines that greatly increase for multiple violations and arguably don't overly punish people for a one time occurrence like the abusive driver fees did.

With all that being said, the fact that so many people are tempted to violate the law in order to shorten their commute even with the large fines serves as yet another example of how bad the traffic can be here in Northern Virginia. As Bob McDonnell has repeatedly promised Virginians that he'll lead in a bipartisan manner after he's sworn in, I sincerely hope he keeps that promise as our elected officials work to improve our traffic situation. Virginia's commuters are clearly suggesting this needs to be done in a timely and efficient manner


  1. There's an additional reason for the high fines for repeat offenders. Many companies in the district - especially law firms - pay their executives' fines for them.

    Since I have been both a slug and one who picks up slugs (an informal carpool, where people line up for free rides into work, given by drivers looking to use the HOV lanes), I have heard stories from passengers and those who drove me that they work for firms where they were encouraged to cheat on the HOV lanes to get into work on time.

    That's why stiffer fees were imposed on repeat offenders. Additionally, repeat offenders lose points on the driver's licenses. All this was done to counter corporations that considered paying fines and encouraging their employees to cheat a cost of doing business.

    BTW, in order to comply with HOV rules, you don't have to have a formal carpool. There are plenty of slug lines around the NoVA area where additional passengers can be found just waiting to get into DC.

    And, of course, you can always buy a hybrid - they get to drive in with just one passenger (or just the driver).

  2. I didn't know about the executives get their tickets paid for them....Intersting. I don't think that the fines are excessive at all because it is not something you tell the officer or Trooper "Oh, I didn't know I was in the HOV, blah blah blah" this takes a focused effort to go into the HOV noticing the huge signs that are in front of nearly entrance.

    I solution for multiple offenders, say five in five years would be license suspension. There are always ways to deal with the problem and if people don't have an incentive to follow the law like these executives taking their licenses from them for six months to a year will more than likely do the trick. Not only will it do the trick, if they are given notification of suspension and then they are STILL caught driving anywhere a trip to the jail will definitely wake them up.

    Just my thoughts from a cop perspective :)