What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?

Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all states, freeways are an integral part of life for most locals, as a large number of Hawaiians depend on them for their daily work commutes. And a large portion of those drivers get to take advantage of Hawaii’s numerous car pool lanes.

Car pool lanes are lanes for vehicles carrying multiple occupants. Cars with only a driver, and no passengers, are not allowed to travel in the car pool lanes. The car pool lane usually travels at a high freeway speed, even during peak traffic hours, so those who elect to carpool to work can get there much more quickly, even if they have to travel during rush hour. Car pool lanes also encourage people to drive together, which helps reduce the number of vehicles on Hawaii’s freeways. The less cars on the roads, the better the traffic is for everyone. In addition to that, fewer cars means fewer harmful carbon emissions, and less damage to Hawaii’s roads (and, as a result, less road repair money out of taxpayers’ pockets). This makes the car pool lanes some of the most important road features and rules in the state.

As with all traffic laws, the car pool lane rules should always be obeyed. Thankfully the rules are straightforward and easy to follow, so following them isn’t hard at all.

Where are the car pool lanes?

Car pool lanes are located on most of Hawaii’s major freeways. The lanes will always be on the far left side of the freeway, next to the barrier or the oncoming traffic. Usually the car pool lanes directly adjacent to the rest of the freeway lanes, but Hawaii has a few stretches which have “zipper lanes." Zipper lanes are car pool lanes that have a movable barrier separating them from the all-access lanes. A vehicle will drive through the lane to place the barrier there when the car pool lane is open, and remove the barrier when the car pool lane is not active. The purpose of zipper lanes is to make it harder to enter and exit the car pool lanes, thus eliminating single-occupant drivers who are darting in and out of the lanes to avoid getting caught (zipper lanes are monitored by video camera, so it is very difficult to avoid being ticketed if you are violating the rules).

There are areas of Hawaii’s freeways in which you can exit the freeway directly from the car pool lane. However, most of the time you will have to merge to the furthest right lane in order to get off of the freeway.

Car pool lanes are marked by signs on the left side of the freeway, or above the lane. These signs will state that the lane is a car pool or HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane, or they will simply show a diamond shape. The diamond shape is also painted on the road to let you know when you are in a car pool lane.

What are the basic car pool lane rules?

In Hawaii, you have to have two or more occupants in your vehicle in order to drive in the car pool lane. Despite the fact that the lane was created to encourage carpooling between workers, it doesn’t matter who the two occupants in the car are. If you are driving your child around, then you can legally drive in the car pool lane.

The car pool lanes in Hawaii are only meant for rush hour traffic, so they’re only open during peak traffic hours. Most car pool lanes are open during both morning and afternoon rush hour, though the zipper lanes are usually only open in the morning. The specific times for any car pool lane will be posted on the freeway signs. When it is not a peak traffic hour, the car pool lane becomes a standard freeway lane that is open to all drivers.

In addition to the zipper lanes, some of the car pool lanes in Hawaii have restricted entrance and exit points to help maintain the speed and flow of the lane. If a car pool lane is separated from the adjacent lane by solid double lines, then you cannot merge into or merge out of the lane.

What vehicles are allowed in the car pool lanes?

There are a few exceptions to the standard Hawaii car pool lane rule of vehicles with two or more occupants. Motorcycles with only one occupant are also allowed to drive in the car pool lane, because motorcycles can maintain a high speed without causing further traffic, and they’re safer in a fast lane than in bumper to bumper situations.

Hawaii also allows certain alternative fuel vehicles in the car pool lane, even with only one occupant, as a way to incentivize environmentally conscious cars. In order to drive in the car pool lane an alternative fuel car, you must first get an electric vehicle license plate from the Hawaii Division of Motor Vehicles. The state determines eligible vehicles as ones that either run off of a battery that can store at least four kilowatt-hours of energy, or ones that are powered by a rechargeable battery that draws energy from an external electricity source.

There are certain times when you are not allowed to drive in the car pool lane, even if you have two occupants. If you are incapable of legally or safely traveling at a high freeway speed, then you cannot be in the car pool lane. For instance, trucks towing large objects, RVs, and motorcycles with trailers are not allowed in the car pool lane. However, if you are pulled over for driving one of these vehicles in the car pool lane, you will likely receive a warning rather than a fine, since this rule is not stated on the car pool signs.

Emergency vehicles and city buses are exempt from the standard car pool lane rules.

What are the car pool lane violation penalties?

If you are caught driving in the car pool lane with only one occupant, you will receive a $75 ticket. A second offense within one year results in a $150 ticket, while a third offense within a year will cost you $200. Subsequent offenses will be up to the officer’s discretion, and may eventually result in a suspension of your license.

If you illegally merge into or out of the car pool lane through solid double lines, you will receive a standard freeway lane violation ticket. Drivers who are caught attempting to trick officers by placing a mannequin, cut out, or dummy in the front seat will likely be subject to a larger fine, and potentially even jail time.

Using the car pool lane is a great way to save time and money, and to avoid the drag of being stuck in stop and go traffic every morning and afternoon. Follow these basic rules, and you can get straight to utilizing all of the benefits of Hawaii’s car pool lanes.


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