Nevada is not a city that’s known for its freeways. The state is known mostly for the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, but when it comes to driving, people associate Nevada with long, gorgeous, rural dessert roads, and not busy freeways. For many Nevada residents, however, freeways are an important part of everyday life, as they rely on them to get to work in the morning, and to get home in the evening. A large number of these commuters (as well as many other drivers who aren’t commuting) use the car pool lane to help save time and money.
Car pool lanes are freeway lanes that are only for vehicles carrying multiple occupants. Cars with only a driver, and no passengers, are not allowed drive in the car pool lane, and will be subject to a hefty fine if they do. Because most vehicles have only one occupant, car pool lanes are usually able to operate at a high freeway speed, even during rush hour. This rewards drivers who choose to carpool by giving them a lessened commute time, and also encourages others to ride share, which helps reduce the number of vehicles that are on the road. Fewer vehicles on the road results in less traffic for all drivers, reduced carbon emissions, and less damage to the state’s freeways (which also means fewer road repair costs for Nevada taxpayers).
As with all traffic laws, car pool lane rules should always be observed so that you can reap the benefits of the lane safely and legally. The car pool lane rules vary from state to state, so it’s important to take a few seconds to learn all about the lanes in Nevada.
Where are the car pool lanes?
In Nevada, car pool lanes exist on one freeway: US 95. The car pool lanes are always the furthest left lanes on US 95, directly next to the barrier or the oncoming traffic. The car pool lanes always stay attached to the all-access lanes on the freeway, and you’ll have to merge back onto the general purpose lanes when you would like to exit US 95.
The car pool lanes are noted by signs that are sometimes on the side of the freeway, and sometimes above the car pool lanes. These signs will mark that it is a car pool or HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane, or they may simply have a symbol of a diamond on them. The diamond symbol will also be painted directly on the car pool lane.
What are the basic car pool lane rules?
In Nevada, vehicles must have a minimum of two occupants in order to drive in the car pool lane, and the driver counts as one of the occupants. Even though car pool lanes were designed to promote ride sharing between employees commuting to and from work, there are no limitations on who can be used as a second occupant when carpooling. If you are driving on US 95 with your child, you are allowed to be in the car pool lane.
Car pool lanes in Nevada are only open during rush hour, as that is when the freeway experiences the most traffic. The car pool lanes are open 6:00-10:00 AM, and 2:00-7:00 PM, Monday through Friday (including holidays). At all other times, the car pool lane is open for all vehicles. The car pool lane times are posted on the signs, so you don’t have to worry about committing the hours to memory.
A solid line separates the car pool lanes from the general access lanes, which is often confusing for drivers, who don’t know whether there are specific points where they are permitted to enter or exit the lane. However, you can merge across the solid line and into or out of the car pool lane at any time, though it is advised that you avoid weaving in and out of the lane.
What vehicles are allowed in the car pool lanes?
In addition to cars with two or more occupants, there are a few other vehicles that can legally operate in the car pool lanes. Motorcycles are allowed in the lanes even with a single occupant, because they are small and fast, and thus don’t add congestion to the car pool lanes (it’s also safer for motorcycles to operate at standard freeway speeds than at bumper to bumper traffic speeds).
Nevada also allows electric vehicles and many alternative fuel vehicles to drive in the car pool lanes, even with a single occupant. This is an exemption that incentivizes the purchase of environmentally responsible vehicles. In order to drive in the car pool lane with one of these cars, you will first need to get a permit from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Not all cars with multiple occupants can drive in the car pool lane. Any vehicle that cannot safely or legally operate at Nevada’s freeway speed limit is not allowed to be in the car pool lane, which acts as the fast lane. Examples of such vehicles include trucks with more than two axles, and motorcycles with trailers in tow.
Emergency vehicles and city buses are exempt from car pool lane rules, as long as they are in service when using the lane.
What are the car pool lane violation penalties?
Single occupant vehicles driving in the car pool lane add unnecessary traffic, and reduce the purpose of the lane. As a result, Nevada is cracking down on offenders by giving them a $352 ticket. This ticket is the same price for both a first and second time offender, but those who frequently break the car pool lane rules may be subject to higher fines, and potentially license suspension.
Drivers who attempt to trick police and highway patrol officers by placing a dummy, mannequin, or cut out in their passenger seat as a second occupant will likely receive an increased fine, and can possibly face jail time.
Using the car pool lane is a great way to save time, money, and the hassle of sitting in stop and go traffic. Whether you are carpooling with coworkers, or merely driving family or friends somewhere, make sure you know the car pool lane rules so that you can get the most out of US 95.