We’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding HOV lanes lately and we want you to know: You ask, we answer. Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper Chris Webb sat down to go over some general and user-submitted questions regarding HOV lanes, its rules, and everything in between.


Q: How can you recognize a HOV lane?

A: HOV lanes are marked by signs and highway marks. The posted signs, which some may be electronic, will advise when the HOV lanes are activated (sometimes there is a time when HOV lanes can be enforced) and how many occupants are required (some highways require three subjects in a vehicle). White solid lines will help differentiate regular lanes from HOV lanes.


Q: What is the HERO program?

A: According to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) website, the HERO Program offers law-abiding drivers and passengers in the central Puget Sound area a safe and legal means to report HOV and ferry line violators. The program was established in 1984 to help ensure the rules of HOV lane use were observed.

Drivers are encouraged to call 1-877-764-HERO (1-877-764-4376) or use the online reporting form when they see a driver using the HOV lanes without the required number of passengers or if they see a driver cutting in line at a ferry terminal. WSDOT will then contact the reported violator with educational information.

The HERO Program is a cooperative effort between WSDOT and the Washington State Patrol.


Q: Does the HERO program apply to the SR 167 HOT lanes and I-405 express toll lanes?

A: Solo drivers can use both the SR 167 HOT lanes and I-405 express toll lanes without having additional passengers in their car as long as they’re following the requirements to pay a toll.


Q: Can law enforcement use the HOV lane even if they are not responding to an emergency?

A: Emergency vehicles are exempt and are allowed to use the HOV lane with only one occupant. It is important to note that many times WSP Troopers respond to incidents without lights or sirens and use the HOV lanes to access the incident quicker.


Q: What does the Washington State Patrol do to enforce the HOV rules?

A: Troopers are aware of areas where HOV lane abuse is more prevalent and try to enforce in those areas. Although, all HOV violators will never be caught, Troopers are good at knowing some of the methods that violators will use to try and illegally use the HOV lane.


Q: What types of vehicles are allowed in HOV lanes?

A: The following vehicles are allowed to use the lane:

(1) Rubber tired municipal transit vehicles conforming to RCW 46.04.355.

(2) Buses with a carrying capacity of sixteen or more persons, including the operator.

(3) Motorcycles conforming to RCW 46.04.330.

(4) Recreational vehicles with the number of occupants specified on signs.

(5) Official marked law enforcement and fire department vehicles equipped with emergency lights and siren, operated by an on-duty state patrol, local, or county law enforcement personnel, or on-duty local, county, or special district fire department personnel.

(6) All other vehicles with the number of occupants specified on signs, except that trucks in excess of 10,000 lb. G.V.W. are prohibited from the use of HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants. Tow trucks that would be otherwise prohibited because of weight or number of occupants may use HOV lanes when en route to an emergency on a specific roadway or roadside.


Q: Are commercial vehicles, yard maintenance trucks, and trailers allowed in HOV lanes?

A: Any vehicle in excess of 10,000 lb. gross vehicle rate is not allowed in the HOV lane. Other vehicles mentioned are allowed with the proper number of occupants.


Q: What is the penalty for violating HOV lanes?

A: $136 infraction.


Q: Are motorcycles allowed in the HOV lanes?

A: Motorcycles are allowed in the HOV lane.


Q: Do infants count towards the HOV occupancy requirement?

A: Infants do count as a passenger and towards the HOV requirement.

However, these guys do not:

Yes, these are real. Troopers have pulled over cars for trying to meet the rider occupancy requirement using dummies.