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Mind your HOV

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado
A lone driver travels in the downvalley HOV lane near the Aspen Airport at 3:30 p.m. Monday. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)
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ASPEN – Going solo in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on Highway 82 could cost you.

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies have responded to public outcry by enforcing HOV-lane laws on Highway 82 near the Entrance to Aspen since Oct. 4.

Sheriff’s officers pulled over 45 vehicles Wednesday, 15 vehicles Thursday and 10 vehicles Friday, according to deputy Brad Gibson.

Drivers opened their windows to cheer officers pulling over vehicles for HOV violations, Gibson said.

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“This week is the first time we’ve got out and hit it,” Gibson said it. “We’re just doing warnings right now. When we decide to ticket, we’ll go ahead and ticket.”

A first offense will cost $66. A second offense anywhere in the state, including HOV lanes in Denver, also will be $66. A third offense will cost drivers $126. HOV violations, however, incur no point additions, Gibson said.

Ticketing on Highway 82 is the job of state troopers, but the county has decided to pitch in after complaints of road rage, according to Pitkin County undersheriff Joe DiSalvo.

“It’s certainly not our focus,” DiSalvo said. “It’s just something we’ve decided in our daily activities to spend time on. We’re hoping that our presence out there will have an effect.”

“We were getting so many road rage complaints,” Gibson said. More presence from the sheriff’s office means the merge point entering the city of Aspen will be better and deputies will be on hand to handle road rage.

“It’s great all around,” Gibson said.

Enforcing HOV laws has been a low priority, DiSalvo said. As in the case of seat belt laws, officers didn’t pull over drivers just for an HOV violation. Rather, deputies might pull over a driver for speeding and issue a second ticket for an HOV violation, but they would not pull over HOV violators who weren’t breaking other laws.

“We have been aware of the problem getting worse and that people are taking advantage,” DiSalvo said. “Now if we see an HOV violation, we’ll make a stop.”

Enforcing HOV lanes might “contribute to getting cars off the road at some point,” DiSalvo said, one of the goals of the city of Aspen’s Canary Initiative. But the real aim is to address community concerns.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com


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