Idaho is a beautiful and rural state, and as a result its scenic drives are much better known than its freeways. However, as with all states, freeways are responsible for getting a large number of Idaho citizens to and from work, errands, and other responsibilities. Some of these freeways have car pool lanes, which aid the drivers in getting where they’re going in a timelier fashion.
Car pool lanes are freeway lanes for vehicles with multiple occupants in them. Cars that have only one occupant cannot drive in the car pool lanes. Because of this, car pool lanes almost always travel at a standard high freeway speed, even during morning and afternoon rush hours. These lanes also encourage employees to carpool to work together, which helps keep cars off the road. Less cars on the road means better traffic situations for everyone (both in and out of the car pool lane), and also reduces both carbon emissions and road damage (the latter of which helps lower the amount of money taxpayers have to shell out for road repairs). As a result, car pool lanes are one of the most critical rules of the road in Idaho.
Using the car pool lanes can save you time and money, as long as you always obey the laws. Car pool rules and regulations are simple and easy to follow, so this shouldn’t be any problem.
Where are the car pool lanes?
Currently in Idaho, the car pool lanes are scattered in slightly unconventional places. The legislature in the state has banned car pool lanes from existing in counties with 25,000 or more residents. The result is that you’ll only find car pool lanes in relatively remote areas of the state, where they serve less of a purpose, since traffic is less of an issue. Proposals to reverse this law have been denied as recently as 2014.
However, where legally permitted, you’ll find car pool lanes on most freeways that experience traffic. The car pool lane will always be the furthest left lane on the freeway, adjacent to either the barrier or oncoming traffic.
The car pool lanes are marked by freeway signs that are either to the left of the lane, or above it. These signs will state that the lane is either car pool or HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle), or may simply have a symbol of a diamond. The diamond symbol is also painted on the road itself, so that you know when you are in a car pool lane.
What are the basic car pool lane rules?
To qualify for a car pool lane in Idaho, you must have at least two people in your vehicle (including the driver). However, it does not matter who the two people are. While car pool lanes are added to freeways to encourage carpooling and help those who are headed to work, there are no limitations on who the occupants in the car are. If you’re driving your kid to soccer practice, you can legally be in the car pool lane.
Most of the car pool lanes in Idaho are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are a few areas, however, where the lanes are only open during rush hour. Be sure to always observe the car pool lane signs to see whether it is a constant lane or a rush hour lane. If the car pool lane is only open during peak traffic hours, it is available for all cars to use the rest of the time.
What vehicles are allowed in the car pool lanes?
While the car pool lanes are primarily meant for vehicles with two or more occupants, motorcycles with a single occupant are also allowed. This is because motorcycles can maintain a high car pool speed while taking up little space, and are safer in a fast lane than in stop and go traffic. While some states allow alternative fuel vehicles to operate in the car pool lane with a single occupant, Idaho does not. However, incentives for alternative fuel vehicles are becoming more and more popular, so keep your eye out as this rule could change sometime soon.
Not all vehicles with two occupants are allowed in the car pool lanes. If the vehicle you are operating cannot safely or legally drive at a high freeway speed, it cannot be in the car pool lane. Examples of these types of vehicles include tractors, trucks with large objects in tow, and motorcycles with trailers.
Emergency vehicles and city buses are exempt from Idaho car pool lane rules.
What are the car pool lane violation penalties?
If you drive in the car pool lane as a single occupant, you can be pulled over and ticketed. The cost of the ticket depends on what county you are in, and if you are a repeat offender, but it is usually between $100 and $200. If you have constantly broken the car pool lane rules, the ticket will likely be higher, and you may be subject to license suspension.
If you try to deceive a police or highway patrol officer by putting a dummy, mannequin, or cut out in the passenger seat as your second “occupant," you will receive a much larger fine, and can potentially even face jail time.
While the current car pool lanes in Idaho help out numerous drivers on a daily basis, they’d be much more successful if they expanded into metropolitan areas. Car pool lanes encourage carpooling and aid workers, so hopefully the state can revise their car pool lane regulations in the near future.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What are the Car Pool Rules in Idaho? and was authored by Brady Klopfer.