Some freeways have added physical barriers, such as poles, to discourage illegal lane changes into HOV/HOT lanes.
High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes provide some attractive benefits, such as encouraging car pooling and easing traffic congestion for qualifying users. Because some low-emission/energy-efficient vehicles are exempt from single-occupancy restrictions – and in some cases tolls – these lanes also help spur sales and use of such vehicles. But HOV/HOT lanes can also pose a unique set of safety issues that fleet drivers need to understand so they can take necessary precautions.
Research indicates that after buffer-separated HOV/HOT lanes are installed, injury crash rates rise. Factors contributing to this increase are the speed differential between the HOV/HOT lanes and general-purpose lanes, vehicles illegally crossing the buffer (double solid white or yellow lines), ingress/egress difficulty, and the reduced inside shoulder width.
Back in 2005, a study from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University examined these safety issues. To view an NBC News report on the study and the safety concerns it raised, click on the photo or link above.
Based on past studies and advice from law enforcement, here are some tips you might pass along to fleet drivers:
- If your vehicle qualifies for travel in HOV/HOT lanes, always enter and exit at the designated areas, where the lines are broken. Never cross double white or yellow lines. Never use an HOV/HOT lane as a passing lane to weave in and out of traffic. It’s both dangerous and illegal.
- Keep in mind how near your freeway exit is so you have plenty of time to merge over to the general-purpose lanes safely and legally.
- Look ahead but also scan vehicles traveling in an adjacent general-purpose lane, even in areas with double white or yellow lines. HOV/HOT restrictions, like distracted driving laws, are ignored more frequently than most traffic laws.
- At points where vehicles can exit the HOV/HOT lanes to merge into general-purpose lanes, be prepared to slow down – particularly if the general-purpose lanes are gridlocked. A car ahead of you might decelerate suddenly, looking for a gap to merge.
- Whether you’re traveling in an adjacent general-purpose lane or an HOV/HOT lane, keep the speed differential in mind. It can lead to sudden lane changes, sudden braking or sudden acceleration as drivers attempt to adapt to the different pace of traffic after changing lanes.
If you have additional tips, please leave a comment.