One day in December of last year, I was driving to Boston with my friend and her mom to go see a play. The ride to Boston was one I had always enjoyed; I’m from Rhode Island, so Boston is a good hour away. As we were driving, I saw a lane in the middle of the highway where cars were whizzing by us, but going in the opposite direction. I had never noticed this before. Maybe because I always took the train or was the one driving to the city- eyes on the road at all times, ya know?
“Why do those cars get to be in that lane by themselves?” I asked my friend’s mom, who was familiar with Boston through attending law school. She told me that it was the HOV Lane, or the High Occupancy Lane, and only those who had two or more occupants could ride in it. “That would have been useful when I was pregnant and driving to Suffolk every day,” she added. I sat there, kind of perplexed. “Were pregnant people NOT allowed to drive in the carpool lane,” I thought to myself. It seemed like common sense that they SHOULD be able. Here I am, a year later, writing about this seemingly common sense of an issue. This is what I’ve learned.
Apparently, not everyone sees eye-to-eye on this topic, or reproductive rights in general, but that’s a discussion for another time. Court cases regarding the issue date back to as early as 2005, starting with a woman named Candace Dickinson. Arizona did NOT approve of 23-year-old Candace trying to drive in the HOV Lane with her soon-to-be passenger. A hefty fine of $367 was given to her for simply trying to drive through the lane. The argument: not being able to prove the driver is pregnant. Wait just a minute, though, there’s more; her child was born just 13 days later. Some really good points were brought forth in light of this case- if an unborn child does not need a ticket at the movies, or on planes, why doesn’t an unborn child count as a passenger? Sadly, Candance Dickinson wasn’t the only one who had to walk so future pregnant drivers could run. In 2022, a woman was ticketed for driving while pregnant, though she was weeks away from giving birth, in the HOV Lane with no other passengers in Texas. However, her court case took a juicy turn. Making national news, her court case was dismissed due to Roe v. Wade being overturned. If an unborn fetus counts as a person in its earliest stages, shouldn’t they also count as a passenger? Utah doesn’t seem to think so. In January of 2023, Utah proposed a bill that would allow tickets to be dismissed with proof of pregnancy (HB.256.) Sadly, just a month later, this bill would be rejected.
As time went on, the states came around to letting pregnant people drive in the carpool lane. An honorary mention of this latest innovation would hail from Virginia. Around January of 2023, NBC reported Virginia passed a bill stating pregnant people could drive in the carpool lane if they certified their pregnancies through the Transportation Department. Remember how Arizona and Texas were sticklers towards pregpool affairs? Well, according to Fox News, in their one of few articles with unbiased statements, both states would come to propose bills allowing pregnant people to ride in the carpool lane with proof of pregnancy. Currently, the passenger plus one other person need to be present in the car to drive in the HOV Lane in Arizona. For those curious about my little story in the beginning, Massachusetts would too come around to letting pregnant people ride in the HOV Lane.
Writing this, however, raised numerous questions for me. As stated before, if an unborn fetus in its earliest stages counts as a person, then why do they not count in the carpool lane? Why is an unborn fetus a person when it comes to abortion laws, but not when it comes to something as simple as driving in the HOV Lane?
What really perplexed me was that pro-life states seemed to be the most AGAINST pregnant people driving in the carpool lane. The overturning of Roe v. Wade brought forth some hypocrisy in rejecting pregnant carpool drivers, causing pregnant individuals to take a stand against transportation laws.
Other questions that arose for me involved members of the LGBTQ community. Are pregnant, gender nonconforming, individuals and transmen allowed to exercise the right of driving in the HOV Lane? Are there different laws towards this specific topic? As time goes on, more information will hopefully be available, as currently, we do not have much to go on.