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Just what is the legal premise behind carpool lanes?

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Surely you have noticed the carpool lanes that have sprung up more and more in communities across the country over the last several years – if you use them they are a treat and if you don’t qualify they can seem nothing more than a cruel tease. The cars filled with passengers get to work on time, bypassing the tedium of early morning traffic, and the rest of the driving population is doomed to sit and inch forward for what can seem like most of the commute. So what is the legal basis for the carpool lane?

Largely, the entire reason for the creation of the carpool or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane is so that not only can normally heavy traffic lanes be thinned out but so that commuters are encouraged to pollute less by using fewer vehicles between them. Depending on the State and region, motorcycles may be allowed to use the lane and there may be full-time or part-time restrictions on the lane use. Full-time carpool lanes will obviously have carpool laws in effect for 24 hours a day, while part-time lanes may only do so during peak traffic times to effectively thin out the traffic and allow drivers to get through more quickly.

Since there is about 7% of the driving population that actually counts as a high occupancy participant, carpool lanes can very often be the most efficient lanes to travel on to and from work. Often times corporations, businesses and other organizations will set up carpools or vanpools with their employees and associates to take advantage of the easy drive and often also to promote a cleaner environment and a higher level of pollution awareness. While those left in the single-driver lane may complain of the speed of their own journey it is hoped that as more time goes by, more commuters will choose to carpool and therefore cut down the traffic drastically, perhaps one day eliminating the need for a specified carpool lane.

In terms of the legality of the lane, the specific rules are dependent on the local legislation because each region will have interpreted the idea of carpooling differently in accordance with the needs of its own drivers. Generally speaking, you are legally allowed to use the HOV lane if you carry at least one passenger, if you are driving a motorcycle and in some cases if you are driving an emergency vehicle such as a ambulance or a police car. Any attempts to use the lane and benefit from a quicker journey if you have no passengers will result in ticketing and a penalty determined by the State.

Carpool lanes were created to help curb a growing problem with traffic, and since the population has grown since the inception of the HOV lane it only makes sense that more and more drivers make the effort to share car space. It won’t just clear up traffic congestion, it will work towards cleaner air in cities as well – both noble endeavors!

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