I often use the HOV lanes on I-90 and I-5 when on the motorcycle. In my opinion, it is the safest place for motorcycles to be on a crowded, fast-moving, multi-lane freeway.
When I’m using the HOV lane, faster drivers sometimes tailgate whether I’m driving the speed limit or going 5 – 10 mph over. Last week, a particularly aggressive driver was pretty clear they wanted me to move out of their way as they were as close as 10 feet behind me at 65mph and waving their arms for me to move out of their way.
By law, am I required to move out of the HOV lane to avoid being cited for impeding traffic if I’m traveling the speed limit (or faster)?
The short answer is no.
I was curious about this because in Washington state, as in many other states, it is “a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.” RCW 46.61.100(4)
But, RCW 46.61.100(3) states, “A high occupancy vehicle lane is not considered the left-hand lane of a roadway.”
So, if I’m traveling at or above the speed limit, I cannot be cited for impeding traffic while in the HOV lane, and I am not forced by law to move out of the HOV lane.
In reality, choosing your speed on the freeway is a balancing act, as traffic generally moves faster than the speed limits. I’ll travel over the posted limits as long as traffic is moving faster. It is not my intention to impede traffic, but I avoid traveling faster than the masses (in general) to avoid tickets and increase my overall safety factor.
And, in practice, I will sometimes relinquish the HOV lane if there really isn’t much traffic so the speeders can have their fun (and keep the police busy while I go by undisturbed). But I often signal to tailgaters and aggressive drivers behind me in the HOV lane to pass me if you wish, but stop trying to force me to move to the right to satisfy your needs.
As an aside and in consideration for the drivers who want to speed, this is one of those times you can legally pass me on the right.