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The Rules for Driving in an HOV Lane

Driving Tips
Jason Baxter

It can be so tempting. You’re in a traffic jam and cars are whizzing by in the lane beside you. Should you take a chance and change lanes? The answer is a clear ‘no’.

It may be difficult to believe, but HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lanes are meant to reduce traffic jams.

How do they do that? Well, if the passengers in all those vehicles whizzing past chose to drive their own vehicles, your traffic jam would be worse. And, if the bus was also stuck in traffic, and that made just a small percentage of its passengers choose to drive instead of using public transit, your traffic jam would be much worse.

More Benefits of HOV Lanes

Reducing traffic jams is just the first of many benefits that we can all enjoy from HOV lanes.

  • Makes better use of highway and road infrastructure by moving more people in fewer vehicles
  • Makes the air we breath cleaner due to lower vehicle emissions
  • Helps reduce the use of fossil fuels and lowers stress levels
  • What Are the Rules for Using HOV Lanes

HOV lanes are usually found on major arterial roads and highways, like the 400 series highways in Ontario. They are often identified by one or more traffic signs, on-lane marking, and, on highways, a striped buffer zone. On highways, drivers are not allowed to enter or exit HOV lanes across the striped buffer zones. Entry and exit zones, with broken white lines that allow the changing of lanes, are used near major highways on and off ramps to allow vehicles travelling in the HOV lane to exit or enter the lane.

The are usually meant for use by:

  • Drivers of cars, minivans, SUVs, motorcycles and pickup trucks, with two or more people in them,
  • Single-occupant taxis and airport limousines,
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles with two or more people in them that are less than 6.5 metres in length.

Some HOV lanes require a minimum of three people in a vehicle (usually on city streets). Drivers of large trucks may not use HOV lanes. Drivers of buses and emergency vehicles may use HOV lanes regardless of how many people are in them.

Penalties for Illegally Driving in HOV Lanes

If you use an HOV lane illegally, like by driving a car with only one person in the vehicle, you may receive a traffic ticket.

If you get a first-time conviction on charges of using the HOV lane illegally, you may face the following penalties.

  • A fine of $85
  • A surcharge of $25
  • Three demerit points

Subsequent convictions of illegally using HOV lanes may incur higher penalties.

If you have previous convictions and demerit points, a conviction for illegally using HOV lanes could also increase your car insurance rates. In those cases, X-Copper’s experienced team of former police officers and top criminal defence lawyers and paralegals can help you get the best possible outcome.

To learn more about the penalties of all traffic tickets, check out our recent article The Hidden Penalties of Traffic Tickets.


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