HERO Program - Common questions


What is the HERO Program?

The HERO Program offers law-abiding drivers and passengers in the central Puget Sound area a safe and legal means to report HOV, HOT lane and ferry line violators. The program was established in 1984 to help ensure the rules of HOV lane use were observed, and was expanded to include HOT lanes in 2008.  

In 2010, in a pilot program, it was expanded to include ferry line cutters at Clinton, Mukilteo, Kingston, and Edmonds ferry terminals.

Drivers are encouraged to call 1-877-764-HERO (1-877-764-4376) or use the online reporting form when they see a driver using the HOV or HOT lanes without the required number of passengers or if they see a driver cutting in line at a ferry terminal. WSDOT will then contact the reported violator with educational information.

The HERO Program is a cooperative effort between WSDOT and the Washington State Patrol.

Does the HERO Program work?

Citizens are doing their part to help identify HOV and HOT lane violators. In 2008 we received more than 26,000 citizen reports of violations.

Most violators stop violating after they receive HERO educational material. Less than 5 percent are reported a second time, and fewer than 2 percent are reported three or more times.

What should I do if I've been erroneously reported as a violator?

If you feel that you've been reported as an HOV or HOT lane violator when you were using the lane legally, please contact 1-877-764-HERO (1-877-764-4376) or fill out the online violation dispute form  

Why did WSDOT expand the HERO Program to include ferries?

In recent years, WSP and WSF personnel began reporting more and more line cutting. The anger and frustration toward these cutters has become increasingly violent and dangerous. We determined that drivers needed a safe and legal alternative to address those who break the law. It was simple to incorporate ferries into this existing successful program.   

How many people violate HOV and HOT lane laws?

The national average for freeway HOV violations is between 10 and 15 percent. Violation rates in the central Puget Sound area are generally quite low, ranging from 1 percent (South Everett)  to 7 percent (Northgate, Kirkland, Southcenter), and averaging less than 5 percent overall. Several spot locations experience higher violation rates during peak congestion or when law enforcement is not present.

The above violation rates are for the freeway mainline. Higher violation rates tend to exist on freeway on-ramps.   

Who enforces HOV and HOT lane laws?

The Washington State Patrol is responsible for enforcing driving laws on freeways, including HOV and HOT lanes and ferry terminals. State troopers conduct routine patrols to catch violators. They use their discretion to determine whether to issue a ticket or a written warning.

Drivers are issued HOV or HOT lane violation tickets only when the violation is observed by a Washington State Trooper. Tickets are not issued based on HERO reports. The HERO Program is for educational purposes only.

What is the penalty for violating HOV or HOT lane laws or cutting in line for a ferry?

The current fine for illegally driving in an HOV, ETL or HOT lane is $186 on the first offense; $336 each subsequent offense in a two-year period (the fees changed July 29, 2019). Driving with a mannequin, doll or dummy to make it appear another person is the vehicle is an additional $200 fine. The fine for cutting in line at a ferry terminal is $139. In both cases, additional local court costs may be added to the fines.   

How can I get more information?

For more information about the HERO program, contact us at HEROHOV@wsdot.wa.gov.