EVERETT, Wash. — It’s been half a year since the WSDOT and Washington State Patrol pledged to crackdown on high occupancy lane violators, so KIRO 7 wanted to know if more drivers are actually getting tickets on I-5.
It’s evening along I-5 in Everett.
In a backup of cars and commuters, consistency is what Trooper Heather Axtman’s is all about.
“Hello! Stopping you for being in the HOV lane by yourself,” she said to a driver she just pulled over.
“Hello, stopping you for being in the HOV lane by yourself,” she exclaimed to another driver.
“Hello, you’re in the HOV lane by yourself,” she explained to a third driver.
It’s a trend that’s becoming increasingly common along Washington’s freeways.
Every few months, KIRO 7 News reports on some new traffic crackdown on our roads.
In July, state lawmakers and troopers unveiled a renewed effort to go after HOV violators.
“You been stopped for HOV before?" asked Trooper Axtman asked one driver. “I have,” the driver responded. “It’s probably my third time.”
W.S.P. insisted troopers would keep up the crackdown, but did it really work out that way?
KIRO 7 News decided to check.
Looking through the number of tickets issued by state troopers since July, the results were astounding.
In Snohomish County alone, the number of people being stopped and ticketed for violating HOV rules went up by 35 percent compared to a year ago.
Since July 28, 2019, when the crackdown began, troopers have stopped 2,213 people for driving in the HOV lane illegally.
That compares to 1,793 stops in the six months prior to the crackdown.
“The HOV is something that’s so infuriating to other drivers, because you have two or three other lanes that are stopped,” Axtman said.
But the question remains, how likely are you to get a ticket?
Staked out along I-5 on a Wednesday evening, Axtman stopped two cars in the course of 10 minutes.
"I got over as quick as I could, but I saw it coming,” said Beau Christopherson, a driver who was pulled over for HOV violations.
Like many offenders, Christopherson just wanted to wrap up his day.
“(The HOV lane) is faster. That’s all I can say,” he told KIRO 7.
Also pulled over was Dan Livingston, who admitted to being a serial HOV violator.
"Move over, let the people by ... it’s just not happening,” he commented.
It was Livingston’s fourth HOV ticket.
He’s now facing a $339 fine.
“I’ve got an hour and a half commute, sit in traffic for two and a half hours --- you get nothing done when you get home,” he said regarding his illegal use of the HOV. lanes.
Livingston’s frustration is something we’ve all felt, but few drivers are willing to go the bizarre lengths of carrying mannequins and stuffed animals to cheat in the HOV. lanes.
“There are people around that have mannequins at their house and I find that mind blowing,” Axtman remarked.
According to Washington State Patrol, an average of three dummies are found during traffic stops each month.
“When you stop someone, that’s a hard one to talk yourself out of,” Axtman said.
In Washington State, anyone getting caught misusing the H.O.V. lanes several times could get stuck paying a $500 fine.
More than ever before, troopers remind people to follow the rules.
KIRO 7’s check of the number of tickets shows troopers mean it.
“Stay out of the HOV lane, OK?”. TrooperOK?" Axtman told a driver she just ticketed. “Drive safe.”
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