Accidents in High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes

With High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes (often referred to as carpool lanes), the Georgia Department of Transportation hopes to decrease commuter driving times, reduce stress, and improve Atlanta’s air quality. The HOV system is designated for carpools, vanpools, and transit buses—all modes of travel that reduce single-occupant vehicles on our busy roads.

While HOV lanes work to reduce traffic congestion by giving a faster travel time 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, not only defeating the purpose of HOV lanes but also causing 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 Gwinnet County. The lanes are identified by the white diamonds on signs above and painted on the lanes, and the white double lines separating 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 increase the danger 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 have been added to existing freeways. The most common accidents are rear-end collisions, as 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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