Many cities and states in the country have carpool lanes, and the rules and regulations for their use vary significantly. As a driver, you are responsible for knowing the laws in the state where you are driving. Drivers who are eligible to use Arizona's HOV lanes will usually find getting from here to there faster, but the risk of using the lanes when you are not supposed to probably does not outweigh the cost if you get caught.
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."
Is there a fee charged to use the lane?
No. We don't have any toll roads at this time (2017) in Arizona, although the topic comes up every year. Right now, anyone who follows the rules can use the HOV lanes without charge.
Who can use the HOV lane, and when?
- A vehicle with 2 or more people in it. People includes babies (you'd better have the correct car seat!), 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.
- Arizona's Energy Efficient Plate Program allows eligible plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) unrestricted access to the high-occupancy vehicle lanes in Arizona. A special Energy Efficient license plate with a "Hybrid" graphic is issued to approved vehicle owners. A limited number of these plates are issued. You can find updates on the program at Arizona MVD.
- Valley Metro buses.
- Emergency response vehicles.
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.
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 hybrid vehicle, you may not use the HOV lane for even a second during the restricted hours. You 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.
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 around $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.