Skip to content

Drivesmart column: Using HOV lanes

There is an added benefit, filling up the vehicle
Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

By Tim Schewe

Vehicles containing more people than just the driver are a relative rarity on our highways. Some estimates place them at less than 10 per cent of the total number of vehicles on the highway! In order to encourage the efficient movement of more people, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes were created. There is an added benefit, filling up the vehicle means a “greener” journey as well.

Don’t confuse HOV and bus lane signs. HOVs do not qualify to use bus lanes.

Which Vehicles Do Qualify for HOV Lane Use?

In order to use an HOV lane, you must qualify as a high occupancy vehicle, which in B.C. is defined as a bus or any other type of vehicle under 5,500 kg GVW carrying the required number of persons as indicated by the sign controlling the HOV lane. If you and your vehicle fit the definition, you may find yourself travelling at speed in the HOV lane while others that do not qualify must crawl along in the other lanes.

Special Exemptions

Motorcycles are exempted from having to qualify and may use HOV lanes unless specifically prohibited by posted signs.

Electric Vehicle HOV Exemption Decal

Electric vehicles that display an exemption decal are able to use HOV lanes as well, even if there is only one occupant.

Other exemptions include emergency vehicles, tow trucks responding to a breakdown or emergency, taxis (but not ride hailing vehicles) and cyclists.

Which Side of the Road?

In municipalities HOV lanes are on the right hand side of the street. On freeways they are on the left hand side.

Entering and Exiting HOV Lanes

You must enter and leave HOV lanes only when the line between lanes is a broken line. The solid line confines you to the lane otherwise.

Entering and Exiting HOV Lanes

There are exemptions for making turns to the right for non-HOV vehicles when the HOV lane is not part of a freeway. You may turn right into the HOV lane from a business premise or an intersection to access the highway containing the HOV lane. You may also occupy the HOV lane in order to turn right at the first intersection where the turn is permitted.

You may also find signs directing you to make a wide right turn to avoid entering designated curb lanes.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit