Off to the Hamptons for the weekend, Gina Ma had just merged into the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) when her three-year old-daughter, Devon, threw-up in the back seat of their Honda SUV. Gina’s son Oscar declared from his booster seat that his tooth just fell out. “I didn’t know what to do,” says the Tribeca mom. “You can’t just get out of the HOV lane once you’re in.”
The HOV lanes line the Long Island Expressway in both directions from Exit 32 to 64. A diamond marking designates the left-most lane as the HOV lane in this corridor, indicating that during peak commuting hours — Monday through Friday, between 6:00 and 10:00 am and between 3:00 and 8:00 pm — only the following designated vehicles may use the lane:
- Private cars or passenger vans carrying two or more people, including the driver
- Pick-up trucks with passenger plates carrying two or more people, including the driver
- Commercial passenger vans with at least one passenger and no goods or equipment
- Taxis with at least one passenger
- Motorcycles, even with only one rider
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles now issues a sticker through its Clean Pass Program to low-emission vehicles, permitting their use of the HOV lane during peak hours, regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. Carpooling also reduces emissions, of course, and HOV lanes benefit carpoolers by saving gas and reducing traffic congestion. Commuters save an average of 20 minutes each way by traveling in the HOV lane, reports the Department of Transportation.
A side-by-side dashed and solid white line delineates HOV entry and exit points on the LIE, where the lane runs between Exits 32 and 64, according to the New York State Department of Transportation. Vehicles may not cross the solid line on their side.
“I gripped the steering wheel like I was going into labor,” laughs Ma. “No hash lines for miles and I didn’t want to get a ticket. A side-by-side dashed and solid white line delineates entry and exist points. I kept saying, ‘Oscar, just wait. Devon, open a window.’”
The HOV designations vary from state to state, with California and Florida boasting the most liberal laws on entry and exit. Suffolk County lawmakers have been rallying the legislature to expand the number of HOV exit and entry points.
The limited access to exit and entry points to the HOV lanes on the LIE can be dangerous, agrees Denver personal injury lawyer Daniel Rosen.
Ma doesn’t remember where exactly she entered the HOV lane. “It was chaos in my car all the way from the Midtown Tunnel,” she laughs. “Meanwhile, Oscar dropped his tooth in Devon’s vomit. He had been holding his nose from the smell. Hours later, among her chunks and the pebbles from our Hamptons driveway, I still couldn’t find it.”
Pari Chang is an attorney, mother of two, and head writer for the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen, an auto accident law firm, where she blogs about safe driving and child safety. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Self Magazine, and Glamour.