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Accidents in High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes

High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, also known as carpool lanes, were implemented by the Georgia Department of Transportation with the goal of decreasing commuter driving times, reducing stress, and improving traffic flow as well as Atlanta’s air quality. The HOV system is designated for carpools, vanpools, and transit buses—all modes of travel that reduce single-occupancy vehicles on our busy roads.

While HOV lanes work to reduce traffic congestion by giving a faster travel lane to certain vehicles, sometimes people drive too fast in the carpool lane, and perform dangerous maneuvers when entering and exiting HOV lanes. These behaviors can cause HOV lane accidents, which not only defeat the purpose of HOV lanes, but also cause serious injuries and damages to accident victims.

Georgia HOV Lanes

HOV lanes first opened in Atlanta on December 14, 1994. The city started with 18 HOV lane miles on I-20 from downtown to I-285. In 1996, 60 additional HOV lane miles opened on I-75 and I-85, and in 2001, another 23.6 lane miles opened on I-85 in Gwinnett County. The lanes are identified by the white diamonds painted on the lanes and signs located above the lanes.  The HOV lanes are also demarcated by white double lines which separate them from the other lanes of traffic. Only the following vehicles may use HOV lanes:

  • Vehicles with two or more (living and not pre-infant) persons
  • Emergency vehicles (law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical vehicles)
  • Motorcycles
  • Buses
  • Certified alternative fuel vehicles (AFV), such as electrically-powered cars and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles

The left-side entrance and exit ramps that lead to or from the HOV lanes are also included in the restrictions. Drivers who violate HOV lane laws are guilty of a misdemeanor.

HOV Lanes Faster, But Not Safer

Studies in different states have found that while HOV lanes may ease congestion, they also increase the dangers of freeway driving. In 2005, NBC News reported that there is anywhere from an 11% to 56% increase in the rate of injury crashes after carpool lanes are added to existing freeways. The most common accidents in HOV lanes are rear-end collisions, and are usually caused when slower-moving vehicles try to merge with fast-moving cars in HOV lanes. Other times, drivers illegally use HOV lanes as passing lanes to get around slower-moving traffic.

In addition, there is often confusion around HOV exits, as most are located on the left side of the travel lane. Atlanta saw one of the worst HOV lane accidents in U.S. history when a bus carrying a baseball team inadvertently exited the expressway at high speeds and crashed over the overpass onto I-75 near Northside Drive. Tragically, a number of people died in the accident, with many more suffering serious injuries.

Contact Us if You’ve Been Injured in an HOV Lane Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in an Atlanta HOV lane accident, please contact the legal team at Katz Wright Fleming Dodson & Mildenhall LLC to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. Call (404) 460-0101 today!

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