OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The California Highway Patrol is cracking down on drivers who illegally use the HOV carpool lanes without the proper number of people or a state-issued, low-emissions vehicle sticker.
The CHP says they've seen an increase in violators, so the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is funding overtime for CHP officers to conduct special enforcement patrols throughout the Bay Area.
CHP Officer Herman Baza took a KTVU crew along on Tuesday as he headed out during the evening commute hours from, looking for cheaters who were using the carpool lanes illegally.
In less than one hour, he stopped four drivers for violating the law.
One driver in Berkeley said he'd been told by a different CHP officer that two people in a car was OK, despite signs saying HOV lanes are for three or more occupants.
Driving down the I-80 corridor, Baza pulled over another driver who claimed to be late for work.
Yet another driver said she was in a hurry because she wasn't feeling well.
The HOV or high occupancy vehicle lanes are supposed to help improve traffic flow for everyone, by encouraging people to carpool. Some extremely low emission vehicles can get a red tag that allows them to use the lanes as well.
A study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2017 found that 24 percent of vehicles were using the lanes illegally.
Baza says people often go to great lengths to avoid detection.
"Blow up dolls....we've seen backpacks stacked on top of each other covered with a coat," said Baza.
He says some drivers have tried bending the definition of what an occupant is.
"Some people make the excuse their pet counts as an occupant," said Baza. "Some people have talked about ghosts in the car, so that counts as an occupant. We've heard and seen many things out there."
An HOV violation ticket can cost more than $490, not including any fees.
The CHP says they are going to continue doing these special enhanced enforcement nights periodically through the year, so the MTC can analyze the data to help with policy decisions.