$65 HOV fine isn’t deterring violators | AspenTimes.com

$65 HOV fine isn’t deterring violators

Some commuters who travel alone haven’t taken a liking yet to the high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on Highway 82.

Well after a year since the first stretch of HOV lane opened between Gerbazdale and Brush Creek Road and one month after a second stretch opened between Basalt and Wingo Junction, the Colorado State Patrol is still citing “numerous” drivers for violations.

“We’re not really seeing a large-scale compliance with the HOV lanes,” said Trooper Sean O’Neil. “We’re seeing violations predominantly in the morning.”

In the eastbound or upvalley lanes, the HOV lane is in effect between 6 and 9 a.m. In the westbound or downvalley lanes, the HOV is in effect from 3 to 6 p.m. Any vehicle with two or more occupants is considered high-occupancy.

A stiff fine hasn’t deterred solo motorists from straying into HOV lanes. Drivers who violate the HOV restrictions are fined $65 each for the first two offenses and $125 for three or more violations.

“That’s probably the most expensive traffic infraction penalty the state has,” O’Neil noted.

However, no “points” are assessed to a driver’s record for violations. Drivers who accumulate a certain number of points lose their license.

Violators range from out-of-towners who aren’t familiar with the HOV restrictions to locals who are simply in a rush and are willing to risk getting caught, O’Neil said.

Some people want to debate the philosophy behind the HOV lanes – arguing, for example, that the HOVs, where travel is faster, should be on the left side and the lane for single-occupant vehicles should be on the right. It doesn’t work that way because the buses need the right lane, O’Neil explained.

Others challenge the wisdom of spending tens of millions of dollars to expand a highway, then closing some of the lanes some of the time.

For the record, the troopers aren’t interested in debating. Save it for the judge and politicians.

O’Neil’s first court case on an HOV infraction was scheduled this week. The ticketed driver didn’t appear, so he was automatically found guilty. O’Neil has four more court cases scheduled in August.

Meanwhile, the tickets keep piling up. O’Neil and other troopers patrol the HOV stretches whenever schedules allow. They have even employed an unmarked car at times.


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