Car pool lanes are frequently found on Alaska’s freeways, and greatly assist drivers in a number of different ways. While driving in Alaska may be better known for the rural, scenic drives, it’s the freeway commuting that the majority of Alaskans have to worry about on a daily basis. Car pool lanes are lanes that are reserved for vehicles with multiple occupants, and solo drivers are not allowed in them. Even during peak traffic hours, car pool lanes normally allow drivers to operate their vehicles at a standard freeway speed.
It's always important to follow the rules of the road, and if you do so, you can benefit from Alaska’s car pool lanes. These lanes encourage carpooling, which not only saves commuter’s time and gas money, but also gets vehicles off the road. Less vehicles on the road means less traffic, fewer carbon emissions, and less damage to roads (and therefore fewer road repairs trickling into taxpayer’s wallets).
Utilizing the car pool lanes will surely shave time off of your daily commute, or even a non-commute drive that happens to pass through an area that is high in traffic. As with most traffic laws, car pool rules and regulations are easy to learn and follow, so you can get straight to benefitting.
Where are the car pool lanes?
The car pool lanes are always the furthest left lanes on the road, near the oncoming traffic or the barrier. These lanes can form specifically when a car pool zone starts, or they can simply be the continuation of a non-car pool lane. From time to time the carpool lane may briefly detach from the standard lanes, only to meet them again shortly. Occasionally, you can exit the freeway directly from the car pool lane, but most of the time you will have to merge over to the standard right lane for exiting.
You can find car pool lanes on most of Alaska’s primary freeways that are subject to heavy commuter traffic. All car pool lanes are marked with both signs and road painting that says “HOV Lane” (High Occupancy Vehicle), and features an image of a diamond.
What are the basic car pool lane rules?
The rules for car pool lanes in Alaska vary depending on the part of the state that you’re in, and the freeway that you’re on. Most car pool lanes in Alaska require a minimum of two occupants to be in the vehicle, though some lanes require a minimum of three occupants. Most car pool lanes only operate during peak traffic hours, and are normal, all-access lanes the rest of the time, but some are car pool lanes all around the clock. To figure out the rules and restrictions for a car pool lane, simply read the freeway sign next to the car pool lane.
While car pool lanes were designed to encourage carpooling among workers, you don’t need to actually be sharing a car with a fellow employee to legally drive in the car pool lane. A child in the passenger seat still counts as carpooling.
In Alaska, entering and exiting car pool lanes is limited. This is done to aid the flow of traffic, and to keep there from being too much traffic that could impact the efficiency of the lanes. As such, you can only enter or exit a car pool lane when the line between the lane and the adjacent lane is checkered. When the line is solid, you are not allowed to merge.
What vehicles are allowed in the car pool lanes?
In addition to standard passenger vehicles that meet the minimum occupant requirements, motorcycles are also allowed to drive in the car pool lane, even when they have only one occupant. This is to increase safety, as motorcycles are safest for all when traveling at a normal speed, and not operating in bumper to bumper traffic.
Unlike it some states, alternative fuel vehicles cannot drive in the car pool lane unless they meet the minimum occupancy requirement. So if you are visiting Alaska from a state in which you can drive your alternative fuel vehicle in the HOV lane by yourself, you will no longer be able to do that.
If the vehicle you are driving cannot safely or legally operate at high freeway speeds, you cannot drive in the car pool lane, even if you meet the minimum occupancy requirement. Examples of such vehicles are trucks that are towing large objects, semis, RVs, and motorcycles with trailers. However, emergency vehicles, city buses, and tow trucks that are en route to a vehicle are exempt from car pool lane restrictions.
What are the car pool lane violation penalties?
The penalty for violating the car pool lane rules varies depending on the part of Alaska that you are in, and the freeway that you are on. In general, if you are driving in the car pool lane during hours without the minimum numbers of people in your vehicle, the fine will be between $250 and $400. Repeat offenders are subject to higher fines, and potential license restrictions or suspensions.
Drivers who illegally enter or exit the car pool lane over a solid line are subject to equally harsh lane merging tickets.
Any driver who tries to trick police and highway patrol officers by placing a mannequin, dummy, or cut out in their passenger seat will face much larger fine, and sometimes the possibility of jail time.
Using car pool lanes can help Alaska drivers save both time and money, while also helping the environment, the road, and the surrounding traffic. As long as you’re following the simple rules, you can get to enjoying all the benefits of the car pool lane.