If you’ve driven on Florida highways, you’ve certainly become familiar with so-called “HOV lanes,” or “high-occupancy vehicle lanes.” These lanes are lanes on public roadways designed for use by vehicles in which there is more than one occupant (unless otherwise authorized by federal law).
According to s. 316.0741 of the Florida State Statutes, which deals with the rules surrounding use of HOV lanes, the number of persons who must be in a vehicle to qualify for legal use of the HOV lanes and the hours during which the lane will serve as an HOV lane, assuming it is not designated as such on a full-time basis, must also be indicated on a traffic control device. Except as provided in subsection (4) of the statute, as we will outline below, a vehicle may not be driven in an HOV lane if the vehicle is occupied by fewer than the number of occupants indicated by a traffic control device. A driver who violates this section shall be cited for a moving violation, punishable by a $60 fine and other potential court and attorney fees.
As we mentioned above, subsection 4 of this statute contains a number of exceptions. Among them is one concerning inherently low-emission vehicles (ILEV), which, if so certified and labeled in accordance with federal regulations, may be driven in an HOV lane at any time, regardless of its occupancy. Further, upon the state’s receipt of written notice from the proper federal regulatory agency authorizing such use, a vehicle defined as a “hybrid” vehicle under this section (legally defined for these purposes in s. 316.0741) may be driven in an HOV lane at any time, regardless of its occupancy. The state statute stipulates that all eligible hybrid and all eligible other low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles driven in an HOV lane must comply with the minimum federal fuel economy standards set forth in 23 U.S.C. s. 166(f)(3)(B).
The state statute we’ve been dealing with, s. 316.0741, details a number of other labeling and certifying requirements for certain vehicles being allowed to travel in the HOV lane, the full breadth of which can be gleaned by reading s. 316.0741. That said, there are some practical takeaways that our Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach traffic ticket defense lawyers think are important for drivers to realize. If the letter of the law isn’t clear, we’d like to make it so: Florida law enforcement officers have become wise to the tricks and ploys used by drivers in the Sunshine State in the HOV lane.
Many Floridians think they can simply outsmart police officers by placing objects, looking like real people, in the passenger seat of the vehicle, thereby making their car a seemingly high occupancy vehicle. Time and time again, though, police officers have pulled over drivers who have placed such ridiculous props as cardboard cutouts of celebrities in their passenger seat and have issued them a ticket for the moving violation, as described above.
Just be smart: if your vehicle doesn’t pass the occupancy test or the low-emissions/hybrid vehicle test, stay out of the HOV lane during the designated HOV times.