Tuesday, June 18 2013, 10:14 AM MDT
Good Question: HOV Lanes in an Emergency
By Matt Gephardt
Photography by Mike Sadowski
Edited by Ryan Malavolta
(KUTV) It can be an awkward feeling when you see flashing lights in your rear view mirror with questions racing through your head: are they there for you, or do they just want you to move out of the way as quickly as possible? That feeling becomes even more awkward when you're driving in an HOV lane. What are you to do? The Utah driver handbook clearly says that when an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights on, "drive at once to the right." But pulling to the right means breaking a different law and crossing the double white line. Doing that can mean a ticket and you know an officer is going to see you because one’s right behind you with their lights on.
It's a catch 22 that doesn't escape 2News viewer, Christy who wrote to me that she has seen confused motorists cause and accident and others nearly run her off the road. She writes, "it's like [drivers] don't know whether to get in the fast lane or the emergency lane," and she wants a little clarification.
Matt Gephardt took Christy's question to the Utah Highway Patrol, and Sergeant Jeff Nigber. Nigber says that, when an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights on, the emergency that trumps the double-white-line law. He says a driver must move to the right and cross that double-white-line as quickly as is safely possible.
Nigber says it's important not pull left onto the highway shoulder.
“More emergency vehicles may be coming and may need to use that emergency lane, so we like to keep that clear if at all possible so emergency vehicles can get by," Nigber said.
Also, once you're out of the carpool lane, you cannot legally move back into it over the double white line even if you exited to make way for an emergency vehicle. A driver is supposed to wait until they come to one of the access points, the sections where the line is dashed. According to UDOT, crossing the double white line when there isn't an emergency vehicle behind you will get you a ticket of up to $100.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)