Between construction, accidents and an overwhelming number of cars on the highway, it can be tempting to break the rules of the road in order to get ahead.
Records from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department show that thousands of drivers have been cited over the past year for HOV lane violations.
High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes are intended to benefit a vehicle occupied by two or more people or motorcyclists. They help to reduce air pollution and congestion on the highways and, as a result, frequently allow for a faster commute for those in the lane.
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In 2016, the HOV lane enforcement team from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department issued 5,369 citations to single riders. Each ticket is a $240 fine, which would amount to $1,288,560 in total penalties for the year.
“It’s like Russian roulette. They do it in hopes that they don’t get caught or that we’re not out here,” Deputy Christopher Laboda said. “We can’t be everywhere all the time but we try to hit these spots as often as we can.”
Laboda a member of a five-person team that handles HOV lane enforcement in Dallas County funded by a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. During the targeted enforcement of U.S. 75 last Thursday morning, the team issued 106 citations.
The deputies set up at the HOV lane exit ramp on southbound U.S. 75 near Midpark Road and slow exiting vehicles down so they can see inside. Drivers who were riding solo were ushered over to a traffic island where they were issued citations and then sent along their way.
At times, there were more vehicles waiting for citations than there were deputies to issue them, which allowed several violators to slip past the enforcement effort because there was no room for them to safely pull over.
According to Laboda, drivers sometimes go to extreme measures in an effort to fool them.
“We’ve had rugs wrapped with hats. I’ve seen dolls put in car seats. There’ve been mannequins with Styrofoam heads with a wig and, like, Mr. Potato Head eyes,” he said. “Usually I take them to jail.”