High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes - Rules and FAQs
High occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions are lifted in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia on the following federal holidays:
Tuesday, Jan. 1 - New Year's
Monday, Jan. 21 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Monday, Feb. 18 - Presidents' Day
Monday, May 27 - Memorial Day
Thursday, July 4 - Independence Day
Monday, Sept. 2 - Labor Day
Monday, Oct. 14 - Columbus Day
Monday, Nov. 11 - Veterans Day
Thursday, Nov. 28 - Thanksgiving
Wednesday, Dec. 25 - Christmas
HOV lanes allow users to travel faster, while freeing up congestion in regular lanes. There are a variety of ways to qualify to commute in HOV lanes. Some resources:
Hybrid Rules on Interstates 95 / 395:
The inner lanes on I-395 from north of Edsall Road to Washington, D.C., remain traditional HOV lanes. Hybrid vehicles with Clean Special Fuel plates issued before July 1, 2006, may use the I-395 HOV lanes during HOV hours (6 - 9 a.m.; 3:30 - 6 p.m., Monday through Friday).
During these times, police can ticket hybrids without three people on board unless they have a Clean Special Fuel plate issued before July 1, 2006. About 13 percent of the 75,000 hybrid drivers in Virginia hold a qualifying 2006 Clean Special Fuel plate license plate.
Hybrids on the I-95 high occupancy toll (express) lanes between Route 610 in Stafford County and Edsall Road in Fairfax County must have three people in the car (HOV-3+) and have an E-Z Pass Flex set to HOV ON at all times to use the lanes free.
Otherwise, hybrids must have an E-Z Pass Flex set to normal mode or a standard E-Z Pass and pay a toll. Section 33.2-501 of Virginia law defines who may and may not use high occupancy toll lanes without paying a toll. Visit www.ExpressLanes.com for details.
Hybrid Rules on Interstate 66:
The Hybrid Exemption has been retired. Retiring the Clean Special Fuel vehicle exemption is a part of an overall strategy to treat all I-66 users more equally and to move more people with greater efficiency by encouraging greater HOV and transit usage.
Inside the Beltway, all lanes are HOV-2 from 5:30 - 9:30 a.m. eastbound, 3 - 7 p.m. westbound, Monday through Friday. Outside the Beltway, the left lane is HOV-2 from 5:30 - 9:30 a.m. eastbound, 3 -7 p.m. westbound, Monday through Friday.
Hybrid Rules on the Dulles Toll Road:
Hybrid and compressed natural gas vehicles with Clean Special Fuel vehicle license plates are exempt from HOV restrictions. More information: dullestollroad.com.
Hybrid Rules on Interstate 64 and Interstate 264 in Hampton Roads:
Hybrids with Clean Special Fuel plates are allowed to travel in Hampton Roads on the I-64 and I-264 HOV lanes during rush hour with one occupant.
Please note: The 64 Express Lanes are located on 8.4 miles of I-64 between the I-264 interchange and I-564 in Norfolk. Tolling is in effect westbound from 5 - 9 a.m. and eastbound from 2 - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The HOV exemption provided by Clean Special Fuel plates does not apply in the 64 Express Lanes during operating hours.
To learn more about the 64 Express Lanes, visit www.64ExpressLanes.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of vehicles qualify for Clean Special Fuel license plates?
All hybrids qualify for Clean Special Fuel license plates. SmartCars are not hybrids, so they do not qualify for Clean Special Fuel plates.
How do I get Clean Special Fuel license plates?
The Clean Special Fuel plates cost $25 annually and you must apply for them through DMV.
A Clean Special Fuel plate can be transferred to a new hybrid as long as the vehicle it is being transferred to qualifies for the Clean Special Fuel plate.
Can I use Virginia's HOV lanes in my hybrid vehicle even though my car is registered in Maryland?
No. For a hybrid vehicle to use Virginia's HOV lanes, you must have Virginia Clean Special Fuel license plates. This is the only way we have to monitor the use of these lanes when there is only one individual in a car. For Virginia to honor Maryland plates, there must be a reciprocal agreement between the states. No such agreement exists.
I'm pregnant. Do I count as one person or two?
In the HOV world, you're one person. Babies of any age, however, count as a person.
I have a two-seater vehicle. Can I use the HOV-3 lanes?
No. To use the HOV-3 lanes, you must have three people in your vehicle.
I got a ticket for traveling alone in the HOV lanes -- but I entered the HOV lanes several minutes before the HOV restriction went into effect. What gives?
If you do not have the minimum number of people in your vehicle when the restriction begins, you are a violator - even if you entered the lanes before the restriction began. The bottom line: You must have the required number of people in your vehicle anywhere in the lanes during HOV hours.
Why are HOV lane restrictions lifted when there is an accident? Doesn't VDOT want to reduce congestion and pollution by encouraging carpooling?
VDOT strives to encourage carpooling to reduce congestion and pollution on our highways, so we seldom lift HOV restrictions.
Decisions to lift HOV restrictions are made in conjunction with, or at the request of, Virginia State Police. Police only make such a request if an accident is deemed to be a major incident that will take an extended period of time to clear.
It is frustrating to see solo drivers enjoying the HOV lanes when you are "playing by the rules," but you will notice that even during snow conditions, HOV lane restrictions are not lifted unless the main lanes are blocked.
During HOV hours, any vehicle that has the designated number of people (HOV-2 or 3) can use the HOV lanes. During all other times, they are open to all vehicles, except when the I-95/395 and I-64/264 reversible lanes are closed.
Note that the I-66 express lanes inside the Beltway require all HOV-2+ vehicles to have an E-Z Pass Flex switched to HOV mode to travel free during peak hours.
Hampton Roads: Each offense - $100
- First offense - $125
- Second offense - $250 plus three points on your driving record
- Third offense - $500 plus three points on your driving record
- Fourth offense - $1,000 plus three points on your driving record
- Motorcycles are permitted to use HOV lanes during HOV hours.
- Vehicles powered exclusively by Clean Special Fuel (including hybrid gasoline/electric, hydrogen, hythane, methane, compressed natural gas, electricity, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, ethane, and solar energy) and registered with Clean Special Fuel license plates are permitted to use HOV lanes under certain circumstances (see individual road rules above).
- Emergency vehicles (fire, ambulance, rescue) and law enforcement vehicles are exempt. Public utility vehicles are permitted to use HOV lanes when responding to emergency calls. Note that on the I-66 express lanes inside the Beltway, all vehicles are required to have an E-Z Pass transponder during tolling hours. Emergency, law enforcement and public utility vehicles are exempt from tolls only when responding to emergency calls.
- On most interstates in northern Virginia, trucks weighing less than 26,001 pounds are permitted to use HOV lanes if they have the required number of people. Tractor trailer trucks are not permitted on the HOV lanes in the Hampton Roads area or on I-66 inside the Beltway at any time. Trucks with more than two axles are not permitted on the I-95 or I-495 Express Lanes.
- Buses designed to transport sixteen or more passengers, including the driver, are permitted.
- Taxicabs with two or more people, including the driver, are permitted.