We've all been there. Sitting alone in our cars, stuck on the highway in bumper to bumper traffic. One look in that empty lane on the left is usually all it takes. You look for an opening and go for it. You feel great, flying by all those "suckers" who aren't moving. "Man, I should've done this sooner," you say to yourself. And then . . .
Just when you thought you'd gotten away with it, the dreaded blue lights appear in your rearview mirror.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Chances are, you're going to be receiving a ticket for violating the High Occupancy Vehicle lane (HOV lane).
What to do? What to do? (If you want to know what not to do, click here to read about a guy who stuck a mannequin in the car and ended up paying over $400 in fines.)
Well, the first thing you can do is try to learn a little about the law you've just been charged with breaking.
The HOV lane is pretty simple. There are designated lanes with restrictions on the minimum number of people that can be in the car during certain times, usually rush hour.
These lanes popped up when politicians thought that they could force us to carpool by taking away a lane of traffic and only making it available if we'd ask a complete stranger to ride with us.
Because it became obvious that no one was using these lanes to carpool to and from work, and the environmental movement took hold, many of these HOV lanes have been opened up to single passengers who drive hybrid or electric vehicles as well. But like I was saying at the beginning of this article, that HOV lane is almost always empty and is just one giant temptation for the rest of us in a hurry who are trying to get home.
So we take the gamble that we won't get caught by dipping in the lane "for a second" and have every intention of joining the slow lane, but end up telling the officer that "the other cars wouldn't let me in."
In Florida, getting an HOV lane ticket may or may not carry points. It all depends on how the ticket was written. Believe it or not, you can get cited for violating Florida Statute 316.0741 (the actual HOV Lane Statute) and not have to worry about points on your license if you pay the ticket; or you can be cited with violating Florida Statute 316.074(1), in which case you would get points on your license if you paid your ticket.
Confused yet? I don't blame you.
The confusion often is made worse when clients call our office and say they got an HOV lane ticket and want to know if it carries points. When we ask them to read the statute on the ticket, they say, "Three one six dot zero seven four one" regardless if there was a parenthesis between the 4 and the 1. Yet, this parenthesis makes the difference between points and no points.
The explanation is as follows:
Florida Statute 316.074(1) is a generic statute used for violation of a traffic control device. Technically, anything could be a traffic control device. It doesn't have to be a stop sign or red light. So some officers use this statute to cite drivers who violate the HOV lane sign restriction. If your ticket has this statute, and you pay it, you will get points on your license. In other words, don't just pay it.
Florida Statute 316.0741 is the actual statute for HOV lane tickets and believe it or not, it does not carry points. Now, this doesn't mean you should just go and pay it, because it will leave a mark on your driving record which can come back to haunt you when you least expect it.
You will have to weigh the benefit of fighting the ticket vs. the cost of paying it. Many times it's worth it to fight a ticket that does not carry points, but sometimes it's not.
If you have an HOV lane ticket and want to talk to a traffic attorney who has been helping people since 1995 with all their traffic ticket needs, my office will be happy to give you a free consultation. Please call 866-374-8355. Just remember when you read us the statute, to include the parenthesis if you see one.
***UPDATE**** On August 15, 2013, I wrote a blog here, where I explained that the insurance companies were losing revenue because of "no point" tickets such as HOV and have started to raise insurance rates of those people who just paid the tickets as opposed to fighting them. Please read the article to better understand how to protect yourself.