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How was your highway today?

Highway drivers, did you share any of these experiences today during the police crackdown on HOV lane violators in Maryland and Virginia?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I have carpooled with my husband from upper Montgomery County to the office park near Westfield's Mall for about four years. As a passenger, the things I see on a daily basis are often horrifying: road rage threatening multiple cars, lane changers in congested traffic at high speed while on the cell, folks texting at 65 mph, drivers who a) think I-270 is an autobahn, especially in the HOV lane, or b) drive like a video game with no real sense of consequence to reckless behavior behind the wheel.

Most trips are tension filled, as it is virtually impossible to progress up and down that highway at 60 - 65 mph, even in the HOV lane, without having multiple close calls and near accidents.

But today was different! In our 6 - 6:30 a.m. trip to Bethesda, we probably saw 10 cruisers with lights on giving tickets or whatever for HOV violators or other infractions. Yes, the result was a bit more congestion as drivers slowed down to gawk or be sure they were not the next target.

But it was the first trip in a very, very long time where the traffic flow was sane, at a reasonable speed and the lane changers and leapfroggers seemed to change their habits, at least for a day. While speeders and aggressive drivers everywhere are a safety problem, I do not see nearly enough police presence on I-270.

So I celebrate this day and look forward to our trip home tonight hoping it is more safe than yesterday and glad that Maryland's coffers will be filled with fines from these irresponsible drivers who think the laws don't apply to them.

I can only imagine today's trips on I-95 and I-66.

-- Kathy Turley, Damascus

Police had announced that they would be out in force today on the Northern Virginia Interstates and the Dulles Toll Road and in Maryland on I-270 and Route 50. The goal is to get drivers who don't follow the HOV rules out of those lanes. HOV violators are among the D.C. region's most loathed drivers, according to what I see in the Dr. Gridlock mailbag.

But of course, any big police operation on the highways at rush hour has an extended effect. Everyone slows down and plays nice, if only for a moment. Some drivers slow down too much, and extra congestion results.

What behavior did you observe today? (You're likely to see the police on the highways again on your way home.)

By Robert Thomson  |  May 5, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Driving , Safety , highways  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock  
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Every morning, I enter I-66 by myself at approximately 30 seconds after 9:00am.

This morning, I saw several people pulled over on the entrance ramp who were still in the process of receiving their tickets, but I did not notice any abnormal traffic delays.

Personally, I'm glad that the police are enforcing the HOV rules, but I'll warn motorists right now: tonight's rush hour is likely to stink on I-66. The last time the police did a large-scale enforcement like this, they choked the point where 66 crosses the beltway, which caused enormous backups.

It'd be nice if they didn't do that today, but I don't know how they enforce the rule if they don't enforce at that point. If they don't enforce there, what's to stop single-occupant drivers from just riding 66 from DC to points past 495?

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | May 5, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I do not have a problem with the concept of HOV, nor do I have a problem with police enforcing HOV rules (would prefer that they directed violators to a less conspicuous and more safe location to conduct the traffic stop--off the highway). What I do have a problem with is when HOV reduces highway capacity during the busiest times of the day as it does on I-270. All of the other roads in the region that have HOV, the capacity is of the roadway is not decreased during rush hour, and in fact is increased on two roads, I-395/95 and I-66. That is why I-270 is such a nightmare during rush hour, and SHA should reconsider the HOV implementation on this highway to make it 24-hour HOV or allow for an additional general travel lane when HOV rules are in effect.

Posted by: Russtinator | May 5, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Dr G--

What exactly is the rule in MD concerning single-occupant police vehicles in HOV lanes? Do they enjoy a blanket exception or are they allowed only if enforcing HOV? (Obviously, I'm not talking about emergency (lights and siren) responses.) If it is the latter (which is my understanding), then this is abused on a daily basis on both I-270 and US-50.

I would maintain that the following entities are not interested in enforcing HOV on I-270: US Park Police, Uniformed Secret Service, Federal Protective Service, Metropolitan (DC) Police, Metro Transit Police, Frederick County Sheriff, Greenbelt Police, Prince Georges County Police & Sheriff, Fairfax County Police & Sheriff, Rockville & Gaitherburg Police (outside of Rockville & Gaithersburg), Montgomery County Sheriff, and numerous unmarked police vehicles with VA, DC, Maryland, and Federal Government license tags.

I'll throw in Montgomery County Police, too, because the majority I see are out of uniform, apparently not on duty, and commuting (a large number get off at Germantown). I'm not saying MC Police don't enforce HOV, only that I haven't seen it (I have seen three single-occupant vehicles pass me followed by a marked MCPD car with no enforcement). I only see Maryland State Police enforcing HOV.

Oh yeah, and you can add Montgomery County Fire and Rescue vehicles, other Montgomery County Government vehicles, and Maryland Government vehicle to the list of frequent violators.

Similar circumstances existed (and I presume still do) on US-50 in Price Georges County when I used to frequent that route.

It is my understanding that VA gives a blanket exception to police vehicles, which seems absurd to me (along with the hybrid vehicle exception).

Posted by: ceebee2 | May 5, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I commute from Hyattsville to Frederick everyday. Today was pretty bad, especially on the Beltway. Usually, my biggest problem is not lane changers or traffic hoppers; it is people who do not understand that the left lane is for PASSING. If you are going slower than the 50 people behind you and you can get into the right lane, than do it! I see more almost accidents because people will simply not get over. So what if the guy behind you wants to go 75 in a 55. If you can get over safely, don't block him just to teach him a lesson! I've noticed this only becomes a problem when traffic is flowing fairly well. When the roads are completely congested, everyone behaves themselves.

Posted by: irishgirl96 | May 5, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

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