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New York is a leader in high-occupancy vehicle lanes, also known as HOV lanes or carpool lanes, which reserve certain lanes only for vehicles with multiple passengers. This practice is meant to encourage carpooling and decrease traffic congestion. Whether HOV lanes ultimately help or harm traffic flow, it is certain that HOV lanes present particular hazards that can cause automobile accidents ending in serious personal injury or wrongful death.
The danger lies in the speed differential between HOV and non-HOV lanes. During rush hour and peak traffic times, cars generally travel much faster in the less-occupied HOV lane than in the adjacent lane. It is difficult for drivers in both lanes to judge how fast cars in the other lane are traveling. Therefore, cars entering the HOV lane risk being rear-ended by speeding cars already in the HOV lane, and cars exiting the HOV lane risk rear-ending slower-moving cars in the adjacent lane.
New York is one of very few places that uses moveable barriers to allow for reversible HOV lanes (such as I-495 between Maurice Avenue and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and I-278 between the Verrazano Bridge and Battery Tunnel). This setup allows the HOV lane to go in different directions during the morning and evening rush hours, which maximizes traffic flow. However, it can also cause confusion to drivers who are new to the area and do not understand the system. Also, while barriers may help prevent accidents from cars moving in and out of the HOV lane when they are not supposed to, they also limit the space within which cars can change lanes, which creates a danger by pressuring people to change lanes in a short amount of time.
Statistics show that more accidents occur in the lane adjacent to the HOV lane than in other lanes further to the right. Whenever possible, it may be safer not to travel in this lane. However, you may have to at times because of traffic patterns, or if you are needing to enter or exit the carpool lane. Use caution when traveling in this lane, and as always, scan the road, be aware of other drivers and road conditions, and drive accordingly. If you are injured in a New York City automobile accident, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.