On the morning of Sept. 11, the Pennsylvania State Police set up a "checkpoint" on the I-279 HOV lanes to catch and ticket motorists driving alone in these lanes, which have a two-occupant minimum during rush hour. The entirely predictable result: an insignificant number of people (about 60) got ticketed for an infraction that has little to no impact on traffic safety or the public good, while thousands of people heading to work got stuck in a 9-mile traffic backup in the southbound lanes of I-279 caused by rubbernecking at the checkpoint area.
The state police, of all agencies, should be keenly aware of the delays and dangerous driving situations that rubbernecking causes. In addition to causing inconvenience for all motorists, the conditions Wednesday -- a bumper-to-bumper backup, sudden stopping, distracted driving -- were ripe for traffic accidents and other problems. The state police exhibited extremely poor judgment by creating this dangerous traffic situation without a compelling public interest at stake.
According to PennDOT, the HOV lanes have been underutilized for their entire 25-year existence, carrying only 3 percent to 4 percent of the daily traffic volume of I-279. So, how about showing some common sense here? It is ludicrous to waste public resources to enforce the current underutilization of the HOV lanes. And it should be obvious that making traffic conditions worse and more dangerous for 97 percent of drivers in order to issue 60 tickets does not benefit the overall public interest.