A tip from the highway patrol: Carpooling with the dead doesn’t mean you get to use the HOV lane | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

A tip from the highway patrol: Carpooling with the dead doesn’t mean you get to use the HOV lane

1370532_web1_gtr-adv-tns-Hearse-xxxxxx
Body cam footage from a Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka shows his view as he approaches a van he had pulled over for driving in the HOV lane on I-15 in Las Vegas. The van driver had a cadaver in the car, which did not enable him to legally drive in the HOV lane.

LAS VEGAS — A black van was driving southbound in the carpool lane of Interstate 15, just past the Stratosphere hotel and casino in Las Vegas, when the Nevada Highway Patrol trooper noticed the driver appeared to be alone.

He flipped on his red and blue lights and pulled the driver over.

“Hi! Trooper Smaka, Nevada Highway Patrol,” he said as the man in the van handed him his driver’s license. “You got your registration and insurance as well?”

He did.

Then the driver sort of nodded and motioned toward the back of the van. He said there was a body back there.

“Oh, you have a deceased in the back?” Trooper Travis Smaka repeated coolly.

He did.

And so began the brief, unusual attempt by a mortuary driver in Las Vegas to claim a corpse as his passenger.

The traffic stop Monday came amid increased HOV lane enforcement on I-15 running parallel to the Las Vegas Strip. Since mid-June, it’s a $250 fine to drive solo in a carpool lane — a change from before when enforcement occurred only during morning and evening rush hours. On the first day of enforcement, the department reported dozens were ticketed.

The change has been met with a lot of gripes among locals.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Buratczuk said officers expected to hear some of the usual excuses that they’ve encountered while enforcing the HOV lanes on U.S. Route 95: rushing to work, rushing to the hospital or rushing to an important appointment.

But rushing the dead to a funeral home? Weird, Buratczuk said.

“Yes, it’s a person, but they’re not in a seat and they’re not living and breathing,” he said. “This body was in the rear cargo area and that doesn’t qualify as a seat.”

What if the dead were riding shotgun?

“The HOV violation is the least of your concerns,” Buratczuk said.

People have been trying to skirt carpool lane laws since their inception — and often in creative, if not successful, ways.

There was the man in Washington who tried to beat an HOV violation by putting a hoodie on a plastic skeleton he’d had at home. Or the California man who claimed the articles of incorporation for his business that rested on the passenger seat — minus a seat belt — were his passenger while he zipped along in the HOV lane of Highway 101. And the Arizona woman who argued in court that her fetus was legitimate extra passenger that should count toward using the carpool lane. The judge disagreed.

The corpse was a new gambit to Buratczuk, even though the body camera video showed the driver seemed to know he was throwing a Hail Mary with the rationale. The Nevada Highway Patrol did not release the name of the driver or the funeral home where he worked.

Smaka laughed when the driver asked whether the body in the back counted. It didn’t appear to be a larger, more philosophical question.

“He’s not with us anymore,” Smaka said, before letting the driver go with a warning — and a metaphor for all.

Tickets and traffic can be beat. Death cannot.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.