High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes - Rules and FAQs

This plate is issued to qualifying vehicles registered on or after July 1, 2011.
This plate is issued to qualifying vehicles registered after July 1, 2006.
This plate was issued to qualifying vehicles registered between July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2011.

This plate was issued to qualifying vehicles registered before July 1, 2006.
This plate was issued to qualifying vehicles registered before July 1, 2006.

When and where | How to use | Park and Ride | Contact us

2019 Holiday Schedule

High occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions are lifted in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia on the following federal holidays:

Tuesday, Jan. 1 - New Year's Day
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 Day
Wednesday, Dec. 25  Christmas Day

Ridesharing

HOV lanes allow users to travel faster, while reducing congestion in regular lanes. There are a variety of ways to access use in HOV lanes. Some resources:

Northern Virginia

Hampton Roads

Clean Special Fuel License Plate (or hybrid) Drivers on HOV Lanes: Changes in Federal Law Impacting Hybrid Vehicles on HOV Lanes

  • Due to expiration of certain provisions in federal law (23 USC § 166), beginning September 30, 2019, hybrid vehicles will no longer be eligible to use HOV lanes on any road, highway or interstate in the Commonwealth, unless the required number of occupants are in the vehicle. This will apply even if the vehicle displays a clean special fuel license plate.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

  • In accordance with federal law, HOV lanes may continue to be used by alternative fuel motor vehicles and vehicles that are described in section 30D(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code of 1986 until September 30, 2025. This section of the IRS Code lists a very small number of qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles that are hybrid vehicles eligible for HOV use without the required number of occupants.  If you believe you may have a plug-in electric drive hybrid motor vehicle that is eligible to use HOV lanes, you should check the IRS Code, Section 30D(d)(1) to confirm:  https://fueleconomy.gov//feg/taxevb.shtml.

Need More Information?


Changes Relating to Interstate 395 High Occupancy Vehicle (I-395) HOV Lanes Impacting Alternative Fuel Vehicles

  • In fall 2019, the remaining HOV lanes on I-395 in Northern Virginia from near Edsall Road in Fairfax County – where the 95 Express Lanes currently end – to the 14thStreet Bridge leading into Washington, D.C., will be converted to express lanes.

  • Vehicles that were previously eligible to access the I-395 HOV lanes based solely on the display of a clean special fuel license plate will no longer be able to do so. Only buses, motorcycles and HOV-3+ vehicles will be able to use the 395 Express lanes without paying a toll.  Drivers traveling alone or with one passenger—even those with clean special fuel license plates—will need to pay a toll to use the 395 Express Lanes.

  • Once the I-395 lanes have been transitioned to express lanes, you must either have an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex to access the express lanes. A regular E-ZPass can be used to pay your toll.  An E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode allows vehicles with three or more people in the car—including the driver—to travel toll free.

  • In Northern Virginia, you can obtain an E-ZPass On-the-Go or E-ZPass Flex transponder at all Department of Motor Vehicle customer service centers and at all five DMV 2 Go mobile customer service centers.

  • For more information, visit http://www.ezpassva.com/ or call 877-762-7824.

  • To learn more about the 395 Express Lanes, please visit http://www.expresslanes.com/ or call 855-495-9777.


Frequently Asked Questions on Using HOV Lanes

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.
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.

Rules

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-ZPass Flex on HOV mode to travel free during peak hours.

Fines

Hampton Roads: Each offense - $100

Northern Virginia:

  • 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

Exceptions

  1. Motorcycles are permitted to use HOV lanes during HOV hours.

  2. In accordance with federal law, HOV lanes may continue to be used by alternative fuel motor vehicles and vehicles that are described in section 30D(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code of 1986 until September 30, 2025. This section of the IRS Code lists a very small number of qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles that are hybrid vehicles eligible for HOV use without the required number of occupants.  If you believe you may have a plug-in electric drive hybrid motor vehicle that is eligible to use HOV lanes, you should check the IRS Code, Section 30D(d)(1) to confirm:  https://fueleconomy.gov//feg/taxevb.shtml.

  3. 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-ZPass transponder during tolling hours. Emergency, law enforcement and public utility vehicles are exempt from tolls only when responding to emergency calls.

  4. 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.

  5. Buses designed to transport sixteen or more passengers, including the driver, are permitted.

  6. Taxicabs with two or more people, including the driver, are permitted. 

 

Page last modified: Sept. 6, 2019