The Five Stages of Being Trapped in the HOV Lane

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Los Angeles got its first HOV lane in 1976. Located on the 10, it was called the El Monte Busway and it was open to any vehicle carrying more than three people. Since then, L.A. County has designated over five hundred miles of HOV lanes, which carry 331,000 vehicles per day—whew! With at least two travelers in each of those, that means over half a million people use the HOV lanes every day.

Orange County recently reported that it has seen major falls in the rate of HOV-related accidents since changing the lanes’ design from double yellow lines to dotted white lines. Dotted white lines allow for continuous access, and may decrease risk of collision when changing in and out of regular traffic; OC officials now want all their 267 miles of carpool lanes to be “continuous access.” L.A. County has announced they are not currently considering switching to dotted lines, and see no reason to get rid of the double yellow lines used since the ‘70s. Any Angeleno knows, though, that as wonderful as HOV lanes can be, it’s easy to get stuck between those double yellows and miss your exit. Here are the five stages of getting trapped in an HOV lane:

Stage One: Denial
Taking the HOV lane for five miles is a great idea. I have three passengers in the car, so I’m basically over-qualified for this VIP lane—so long suckers! You will be in traffic all afternoon while I get to my Mockingjay matinee at the Landmark 20 minutes early. Carpooling for the win!

Stage Two: Anger
Okay, my exit is coming up and I don’t see any break in the yellow lines. My stupid brother is backseat driving, yelling that if I don’t get out of the HOV lane now, we will miss the exit. Curses!

Stage Three: Bargaining
Dear Freeway Gods. If you let me merge into normal traffic and make my exit without getting a $381 ticket for crossing double yellow lines, I will buy my brother’s movie ticket. I also promise to keep my mouth shut about the ending since he hasn’t read the books. Please please please.

Stage Four: Depression
There’s a highway patrol car two lanes over and I’ve already driven past the exit. Maybe I accidentally entered an eternal HOV lane, double yellow lines all the way to Canada. I’ll never find a way out. I’m going to miss my movie and now if I ever run into Jennifer Lawrence, I will have to explain to her why I never saw The Hunger Games 3, Part One, and she will refuse my proposal to be best friends.

Stage Five: Acceptance
Luckily, my brother already used Waze to find an alternate route to the movie theater. I think I see dotted lines up ahead. We are saved! I will never take dotted lines for granted again. And, obviously, I’ll be taking the HOV lane home—even if it does add 15 minutes to my journey.