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HOV Lanes

5 Things You Need to Know about Carpool Lanes



HOV Lane in Phoenix

© Judy Hedding

Many cities and states in the country have carpool lanes, and the rules and regulations fo their use vary significantly. As a driver, you are responsible for knowing the laws in the state where you are driving. Here are the five things you need to know about the HOV lanes in the greater Phoenix area.

1. What is an HOV lane?
HOV is an acronym for High Occupancy Vehicle. They are also referred to as carpool lanes. These lanes will have a diamond marking and are sometimes called "diamond lanes."

2. Is there a fee charged to use the lane?
No. We don't have any toll roads at this time in the greater Phoenix area. Anyone who follows the rules can use the HOV lanes.

3. Who can use the HOV lane?

  • A vehicle with 2 or more people in it. People includes babies, but not beagles or inflatable dolls.
  • Motorcycles, including those with only one person.
  • AFV vehicles. AFV is the acronym for Alternative Fuel Vehicles. The vehicle must either have an AFV license plate, or an AFV sticker.
  • Hybrid vehicles that are able to achieve a 45 percent increase in combined city/highway fuel efficiency. As of 2-9-07, three types of vehicles qualify: Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius. You must have a special hybrid plate or sticker on the vehicle to use the HOV lane. MVD is no longer issuing special plates for these hybrids.
  • Valley Metro buses.

The HOV lanes are restricted during certain hours only. Those restricted hours are 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. During the other hours, and all weekend long, anyone can use the HOV lane. In those non-restricted hours, it's just another lane. By the way, if a holiday falls on a Monday, HOV is still applicable. The hours are posted, Monday through Friday. Holidays are not exempt.

4. Can I use the lane just to pass?
See number (3) above. If you are alone in the vehicle, and you are not driving a qualified AFV or hybrid vehicle, you may not use the HOV lane for even a second during the restricted hours. You also can't use an exit from which only the HOV lane has access. There are very few of these. Some on ramps to the highways are equipped with merging control lights, and have an HOV lane. Those vehicles don't have to stop at the light.

5. What happens if I get caught in the HOV lane when I shouldn't have been there?
The fine is a hefty one--I've heard it's between $370 and $400 plus court fees. It is also a moving violation, so you may be assessed points on your license that could also affect your insurance rate.

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