Some solo commuters on California’s busy freeways are just dying to figure out a way to drive in the carpool lanes.
So that was one of the first things that came to mind last week when a news story broke about how a Southern California woman drove around for 10 months with a decomposing – or (in some reports) mummified – corpse in the passenger seat of her 1997 Mercury: Did that get her access to the carpool lane?
Opinions vary. Legal scholars say to use the carpool, or High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, a car must have two or more live people inside. (Would that mean someone in the trunk could be counted? I suppose so, but it might prove sticky to explain if you were pulled over and challenged about what you were doing.)
However, it does not appear that the California Motor Vehicle Code specifies the word “live”, although the legal community has suggested use of the words “people” or “people” in this context implies a live person. Animals, or other non-human creatures, don’t count either.
There was allegedly a legal challenge to the “live person vs. dead person” issue a while back when a hearse driver in the carpool lane was pulled over and cited for having as his only passenger a body in a casket. But I cannot find an actual, cite-able case that substantiates this.
Pregnant women – no matter how far along – also do not count as more than one person, for carpool lane purposes, prior to giving birth.
There have, of course, been well-documented incidents of carpool-hungry drivers strapping things into their passenger seats such as dummies (remember the “Safety Man”, ladies?), inflatable party dolls, and scarecrows.
The best advice for solo commuters who want to travel in the carpool lane: Buy an electric car, alternative fuel vehicle, or certain types of high-m.p.g. hybrids (sadly, in early 2011 these will no longer be legal for traveling alone in California carpool lanes, either).
Either way, please leave the corpse somewhere more appropriate to rest in peace.
October 25, 2010