by George Warren

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) —The growing congestion on Sacramento-area freeways presents a temptation a stunning number of drivers apparently can’t avoid.

“Everybody’s doing it. It’s very common,” said West Sacramento resident Desmond Sargeant, a daily Bay Area commuter.

As a matter of policy, Caltrans has established a violation rate goal of no more than 10 percent. But a recent survey by CBS13 suggests the state’s goal is wildly optimistic.

During the evening commute on Mar. 21, a camera on the Cirby Way overpass in Roseville recorded the westbound Interstate 80 HOV lane for 20 minutes. During that period the camera recorded a total of 459 vehicles, of which 198 had no passenger in the front seat — a potential violation rate of 43 percent.

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The survey shows the difficulty of trying to enforce HOV compliance with a camera; it was impossible to tell which vehicles might have a clean air decal allowing solo occupant access to the carpool lane, although as of Jan. 1 most hybrids no longer qualify. Only cars designated as super ultra-low emission vehicles such as pure electrics or plug-in hybrids are eligible for the red or purple decals.

It wasn’t possible to see backseat passengers, although many of the vehicles observed were work trucks with lumber racks and ladders. One of them was a FedEx van with presumably no one riding in the back.

California Highway Patrol officer Jim Young says one of the challenges with enforcing carpool compliance is that the commute hours usually result in higher-priority calls such as crashes and disabled vehicles, making it hard for patrol officers to sneak up on violators.

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“I can drive down Highway 99 in my personal vehicle and I can see a ton of people in the HOV lane,” Young said. “But once I get in the black and white cruiser, people see that CHP cruiser from miles away.”

In the CHP’s entire Valley Division, which runs from Tracy to Chico, officers only wrote 3,773 tickets for carpool lane violations last year.

Transportation officials in the Bay Area have experimented with special cameras designed to detect the number of people in a vehicle, but haven’t yet overcome technical challenges, privacy concerns, and state law that doesn’t permit camera enforcement in HOV lanes.

Comments (7)
  1. It is possible to travel in the express lane on 580 with a fasttrack set to 1. You just pay the toll.
    I think the reporting was a little incomplete as n not mentioning that fact

    Solo Driver with a FasTrak account may pay a toll to travel
    May carry a valid FasTrak Flex toll tag set to 1, or
    May carry a valid FasTrak or bumper tag Carpools with a valid FasTrak Flex toll tag set to 2 or 3+ to indicate vehicle occupancy may travel toll free

    1. geowarren says:

      This was about Sacramento-area freeways. Two people make a carpool. We don’t have toll roads over here.

  2. James Bummer Garcia says:

    ok I watched the show tonight 03/25/2019 as you were showing solo drivers in carpool lane,what time of the day were you shooting video morning? evening? afternoon? the weekend? the carpool lane signs states right on there that carpool lane is from 6am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm mon-fri so any one can drive in carpool lane 10am to 3pm and 7pm to 6am mon-fri sat-sun all day I have been in the carpool lane solo before at those non carpool lane hours and had have CHP drive besides me and gone around me motor and car officers never been stopped! now I agree that there are drivers that do get into carpool lanes solo when carpool lane hours are in effect because I noticed in your video next to no traffic.

  3. geowarren says:

    We shot this at 5 pm last Thursday. We mentioned in the story that it was an “afternoon commute.”

  4. Kirk Rowert says:

    It’s getting very frustrating using highway 50 at 7AM commuting from Folsom into downtown Sacramento. I carpool with my wife but I would estimate most riders in the carpool lane are solo drivers. Between 7AM and 7:30AM I have seen CHP drive through only a handful of times in the past three years. When they do most people exit the carpool lane quickly. The main problem is that the carpool lane usually winds up being the slowest lane; especially once you pass Bradshaw heading westbound.

    For some strange reason there is no where near the same problem with the evening commute heading eastbound from downtown towards Folsom; the carpool lane usually zips along. There’s still a lot of violators but not as many as in the morning. Texting and people using their cellphones while driving during rush hour is another big problem as they leave huge gaps thinking they’re being safe that way.

    I still don’t see why one or two high-speed cameras in tandem at certain locations couldn’t catch these violators. It could take a pic of the driver and front-seat passengers and then split-seconds later multiple pics could capture the backseat passengers. Or at the very least have one patrol car drive on highway 50 during those times regularly.

    Traffic would also be immensely lessened if more State agencies allowed telework when possible but that’s another hopeless battle since only about 2% currently utilize telework.

  5. radarman67 says:

    Change the times and you might catch people in the carpool lanes. I drive in the lanes only when my wife is with me and I see Pickup trucks with one person in a hurry to get to a job but some switch over to the third lane, some sports cars go in the carpool lane, and people don’t go the speed limit either, like I’m going 70 and they are going 85 or 90 and in and out of traffic like they are at the INDY 500.
    NO highway patrols nowhere to be seen and who’s changed the SPEED LIMIT” in California?

  6. Vic says:

    FYI only red and purple clean air decals are valid now

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