San Diego

Carpool Citations On The Rise Across San Diego County

The number of HOV lane violations locally has more than tripled over the past three years.

Some drivers believe it's a victimless crime, but for many commuters HOV lane cheating is just plain wrong. If you drive our freeways, especially during rush hour, you can't miss them. Neither does the California Highway Patrol (CHP). 

To see the numbers of citations here locally in San Diego County and statewide, see below or click here

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CHP Officer Jake Sanchez said the jump in tickets locally could be due to a recent expansion of HOV lanes across the county. Two new car-pool lanes opened in June 2016 on Interstate 805 near the I-5 merge. 

Some drivers take extreme measures to cheat the system using dolls. In Oakland, CHP officers pulled over a driver and found a child-sized doll resting in the back seat. Another driver used a “Chucky” doll in the front seat to try and thwart authorities from a carpool violation. 

In Washington, a driver tried to use a cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump in the passenger seat, in order to drive in the carpool lane.  

“I stopped a young lady who was seven months pregnant and she told me because she was in the third trimester so she could be in the carpool lane,” Sanchez said. 

Drivers found out the hard way on a busy Friday afternoon. Our cameras caught car after car occupied solo drivers using the Aero Drive carpool on-ramp to the I-15 freeway.

NBC 7 Investigates accompanied California Highway Patrol officers when they cited solo-drivers in the HOV lanes.

One driver, Phillip Morales, was issued a ticket. 

“I was like, ‘This is the worst timing ever,’" Morales said, "I knew he was already going to pull me over.” 

At a minimum, a carpool lane ticket can cost you $490. 

“You can’t fight the law, the law is the law,” Morales said. 

CHP Officers said they are also checking for people using the FastTrak lane off I-15 in Rancho Bernardo. 

Driver Stephanie Wiesenfarth said she uses FastTrak to make sure she gets to school on time. 

After getting pulled over by a CHP officer, she said, “He was checking to see if I had my transponder.” She was not given a ticket. 

“I don’t get any joy out of issuing a citation,” Sanchez said, “The citation is there so people follow the rules.” 

“I also feel bad for the person sitting in traffic, that’s watching this person drive by,” Sanchez said. 

Another way drivers riding solo can use the carpool lane is by driving an electric car or plug-in hybrid car. This would require a special sticker on the car’s bumper but those stickers do have expiration dates and restrictions. 

To learn more about those stickers and how you can obtain one, click here

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