If you’ve been driving around portions of Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95 and noticed that high occupancy vehicle lanes are not being policed, there’s a reason for that.
Though 24-hour-a-day regulations went into effect May 20 for the HOV lane system — which stretches from Silverado Ranch on I-15 in the south valley to Elkhorn Drive on U.S. 95 in the northwest valley — local law enforcement enacted a 30-day grace period during which authorities would not cite those breaking the new carpool lane rules.
Nevada Highway Patrol troopers can pull over motorists they observe breaking the rules, and if they do, they give them a verbal warning and alert them to the pending enforcement that kicks in June 20.
NHP doesn’t have a record of how many drivers have been warned about breaking HOV lane laws, but NHP spokesman Jason Buratczuk said HOV enforcement is not at the top of NHP’s priority list, as no tickets are being issued yet and there are other tasks to worry about.
“Getting to the injury crash or that property damage crash that’s blocking the roadway. Or debris that’s in a travel lane. Those are priorities to us,” Buratczuk said.
After the 30-day grace period ends June 20, NHP troopers are going to be working overtime to cite HOV lane violators, as NDOT, through Project Neon general contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West, will provide the department at least $10,000 to pay for concentrated effort on the new carpool lanes.
“There will be some heavy enforcement going on,” Buratczuk said.
Tony Illia, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman, said the amount being provided to NHP for HOV lane enforcement could grow ahead of June 20 to allow for additional enforcement.
“We will consider augmenting it, based upon NHP feedback,” Illia said.
The carpool lanes aren’t anything new to NHP troopers, as they have been in use on a stretch of U.S. 95 in the valley for over a decade, with enforcement hours based on morning and afternoon weekday rush hour times, Buratczuk said.
“The only difference now is the 24-hour enforcement, which actually simplifies it for the public,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about if it’s a certain day or a certain time. They know it’s 24 hours a day and they need to be in compliance.”
At a Las Vegas City Council meeting last month, City Attorney Brad Jerbic said the city would reduce all carpool lane violation tickets to parking tickets and reduce the $250 fine associated with them significantly.
“The Nevada Highway Patrol is aware of the LV City Council’s opposition to the HOV lanes,” Buratczuk said. “The Nevada Highway Patrol does not engineer the roadways, and we don’t get involved in politics. Our troopers will enforce the rules of the road in accordance with Nevada Revised Statute.”
The NHP has a possible workaround to the city’s plan, as state regulations allow troopers to write a ticket to whatever court they choose, no matter what jurisdiction the violation occurs.
So, if a motorist gets an HOV ticket in Las Vegas’ jurisdiction, troopers could assign the ticket to Clark County’s jurisdiction, which would limit the city’s ability to reduce HOV tickets.
Buratczuk declined to say if that was in the NHP’s plan for HOV enforcement.
With the media blitz, presentations at council and commission meetings and signage across the freeway network, Buratczuk said there has been plenty of warning about the HOV lane regulations.
“Everyone should know by now what an HOV lane is and when you can and can’t use them,” he said.
NOTE: This story has been updated with new quotes from NHP spokesman Jason Buratczuk.
There are multiple ways for a motorist to violate the new HOV lane regulations and face a $250 fine. Infractions include:
• Vehicles that don’t enter or exit the carpool lane at one of the broken line enter/exit points.
• Vehicles with just one occupant.
• Electric cars, unless with two occupants, as per Nevada law.
• Trucks with more than two axles, even with two occupants.