Corpses, ashes and unborn children — none count as passengers in California carpool lanes

Q. I was driving east on the 91 Freeway in the No. 1 lane in moderate traffic when a hearse passed by in the HOV lane with only the driver inside. Does a corpse in a coffin in the back qualify as two people in the vehicle? If that’s the case, can you have a vase with a cremated relative in your passenger seat and still be considered two people?

Lake Forest’s Tom Anderson

A. No, and no once more.

“A corpse or a vase of cremated remains does not qualify as a second passenger,” said Mitch Smith, a California Highway Patrol officer and spokesman based in Westminster. “It’s the same thing as an unborn child, it’s not going to count.”

Other unsuccessful attempts heard or seen by officers, according to Smith:

— According to the driver, he avoided a collision.

— “I was just using this lane to pass.”

— A Halloween mask attached to the headrest of a passenger. “That happens quite frequently,” Smith explained.

Driving tip: If you are driving alone and accidentally enter a carpool lane, do not cross the double-white or double-yellow lines to correct your error. Wait until there is a legal break before leaving. Driving solo in a carpool lane is not a moving violation, but crossing double lines is, and it can affect your insurance or send you to traffic school.

Q. Honk: My wife and I read your column on a regular basis. We have a query: Who in the state government is in charge of highway maintenance, specifically the drainage openings along the center divider in Los Angeles? Every few feet, there are drainage slots. The slots have been filled with dirt and grass. If we have heavy rain, these drainage systems will simply be unable to do their job of keeping giant puddles off the freeway if they become clogged, potentially resulting in accidents. We witnessed a major six-car accident on one of these sections of the 91 several years ago. There must be action!

Gardena residents Stan and Kathy Gronos

A. Thank you for reading and helping Honk keep bread on the table.

It appears to be a Caltrans issue. Over the years, state agency officials have told Honk that they appreciate the public alerting them to potential problems.

You can do so by completing a form on

Caltrans has a policy of responding to you within 10 calendar days.

FACT: A little-known practice among airline passengers is known as “skiplagging” or “hidden-city travel.” They book a flight with a stop in the city they want to end up in to save money and hop off there rather than at the final destination specified on the ticket. However, at least some airlines fight hard against the practice, relying on the “contract” that passengers sign when purchasing a ticket, and in some cases, the carriers even use penalties (Source: The New York Times).

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