Something was wrong with the two passengers sitting in the back seat of a Ford SUV zooming down the carpool lane on Interstate 80 in Richmond on Thursday morning.
They didn’t have heads, arms or legs. The passengers, in fact, weren’t even people.
“It was actually just two jackets filled with random, miscellaneous clothing,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Herman Baza.
The driver was trying to pull a literal fast one on a congested stretch of highway where three people or more are required to ride in the carpool lane.
The driver’s clandestine plan probably wasn’t helped by his decision to stuff one of the makeshift dummies into a bright reflective vest.
Don’t Be a Dummy & follow the rules!— CHP Oakland (@CHPoakland) March 8, 2019
Clever Carpool offender caught cheating system with TWO dummies in back seat. Clever officer checked both dummies' pulse to make sure!
✅Sus DL=Car towed
✅Min $500 HOV fine
Dolls, dummies, pets, infants inside wombs, & ghosts don’t count! pic.twitter.com/Anlxh8zUcR
The minimum fine for a carpool violation is $490, but the driver will face a stiffer penalty because this is the fourth time he has been caught cheating, Baza said. The driver of the SUV was also cited for driving on a suspended license and had his car towed.
Carpool cheats are a common problem in the Bay Area, Baza said.
“We have seen it all, we have heard it all,” he said.
Drivers try to claim their pets or dolls count. Some go into the supernatural realm to try to talk their way out of a ticket.
“I pulled someone over that said, ‘I have a couple of ghosts in the car,’ ” Baza said. “It was weird.”
Baza said the CHP is aware of one repeat offender who has been caught and fined at least nine times.
“He played with his luck every day,” he said.
California’s diamond lanes aren’t always all that fast.
To meet federal requirements, a diamond lane must move at an average of 45 mph during peak commute hours. In 2016, California’s highways met that benchmark only 32% of the time, state Department of Transportation data show.
A 2016 study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the Bay Area found that 24% of drivers during the peak morning commute and 19% of drivers in the evening commute were carpool cheaters.