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HOV Lane Rules

Posted by KenParrott | 08 August 2019

In an age where thousands of deaths occur every year on our nation’s roadways and the environment is at the forefront of government policy decisions, HOV lanes or high occupancy vehicle lanes are increasingly important.  High occupancy vehicle lanes are a crucial component of traffic channelization and have been proven to reduce harmful emissions caused by too many vehicles on the road. 

What is an HOV lane?
HOV is an acronym for high occupancy vehicle lanes, yet they are more commonly referred to as car-pool or commuter lanes.  Other regions of the world may also refer to them by different labels, such as restricted lanes, express lanes or diamond lanes, after the characteristic painted diamond used to delineate the lane from other traffic channels.  These are reserved lanes for vehicles with two or more occupants.  The overall idea of implementation of such lanes is to relieve traffic congestion on roads and lower emissions produced by the number of vehicles on the road.

High-occupancy lanes and traffic channelization
A variety of tactics are employed to channelize traffic for effective use of HOV lanes.  Without proper markings, barriers and traffic control equipment, drivers may ignore or not notice this type of lane.  The diamond is the most widely recognized marking on roadways to delineate an HOV lane from other lanes on an interstate or state highway.  Concurrent solid lines indicate to drivers the prohibition of entering and/or exiting the HOV lane at any given point along the roadway.  These symbols and other highly visible traffic control products are used to channel traffic to correct lanes to make the overall system more effective. 

Impacts of HOV-lane implementation
The implementation of HOV lanes has seen mixed reviews on a number of different levels.  Many regions have made dedicated high occupancy vehicle lanes, while others have chosen to implement a time-actuated version of HOV lane rules, where on particular days of the week the lanes are used for general purposes.  For instance, a study conducted at UC Berkeley on these lanes in the San Francisco Bay area concluded that the benefits of these special designations may not be as dramatic as once thought.  Some important findings were that during the times carpool lanes were in use, demand on general purpose lanes was increased.  The number of vehicles in the HOV lane, however, was lower during times it was actuated as opposed to times it was used as a general purpose lane. 

Despite mixed reviews, some impact is noticed through the use of carpool or HOV lanes on our highways.  They serve not only as proof of progress in the efforts to reduce vehicle emissions and increase safety, but also as a positive step forward in overall traffic responsibility.  They continue to be an iconic and necessary component of our nation’s roadways.

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