COLLISIONS OVERSHADOW HOV LANE'S 2ND DAY
Wednesday, October 31, 2001
By THOMAS RYLL and JOHN BRANTON, Columbian staff writers
State troopers had little time to stop HOV-lane cheaters Tuesday morning while tending to five crashes on Interstate 5 between 33rd and 39th streets.
The collisions on the second day of the HOV lane's operation were generally in the southbound lanes and attributed to the rain and driver errors, said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Dale Retzlaff.
They were mostly due to following too close, speeding or driver inattention, Retzlaff said.
Two of the accidents caused minor injuries.
One was a hit-and-run where a driver clipped another motorist's vehicle and failed to stop.
Witnesses gave troopers the license number of the hit-and-run vehicle. The case was under investigation.
Troopers did find time to stop a few cars for HOV violations. Generally, troopers are only giving out warnings for the first two weeks, but they can issue tickets for flagrant violations.
Troopers pulled over 15 violators Tuesday, but issued only three tickets, said Don Wagner, regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation.
One was a motorist who was ticketed for driving with neither passengers nor a license.
Two others insisted that they had a right to be in the HOV lane.
"The message there is that if you're really stupid, you'll drive alone in the HOV lane without a license," said Wagner. "If you're just mildly stupid, you'll argue with the state trooper who was about to give you only a warning."
Wagner watched Monday's traffic, and noted that HOV-lane use and traffic volume generally was highest from 7 to 8 a.m. The HOV lane's operation is 6 to 9 a.m.
About 8:15 Monday "we could have rolled up a couple lanes of the freeway, traffic was so light," he said. "So why did we say three hours? Because Portland's HOV lane is three hours? Maybe we'll need to say 6:30 to 8:30.
"We have a grand total of six hours of HOV experience," Wagner said. "I won't make any changes for at least 30 days. We'll take our first counts then and see what we have."