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Washington state ends HERO program meant for reporting law-breaking drivers

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 9/23/2021 Alec Regimbal, SeattlePI
a view of a city street filled with lots of traffic: SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 16: Rush hour traffic is lighter than normal during the morning commute heading in and out of Seattle on Interstate 5 on March 16, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images) © Karen Ducey/Getty Images

SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 16: Rush hour traffic is lighter than normal during the morning commute heading in and out of Seattle on Interstate 5 on March 16, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The Washington Department of Transportation is ending its HERO program, which for nearly four decades has encouraged people to snitch on motorists who violated the rules of Washington’s carpool lanes and report chuffs who cut in line while waiting for ferries.

The number drivers were encouraged to call — 1-877-764-HERO — stopped taking messages Wednesday.

“The program has served its purpose because most travelers are familiar with how HOV lanes and ferry queuing operates,” the department wrote on its website.

The program began in 1984, a time when carpool lanes were new to Washington. The state’s goal was to have motorists in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties self-enforce carpool lane protocols. The program expanded in 2010, when state officials began encouraging people to report drivers who cut in the vehicle line while boarding ferries.  

In the past, motorists who flouted the rules — and whose license plates were subsequently reported by callers — were sent “educational materials” by the state on a first offense. Drivers who were reported more than once had their information turned over to the Washington State Patrol, which enforces carpool lane and ferry protocols.

Now that the program is out of service, troopers say they’re going to be keeping an especially close eye out for scofflaws.

Under state law, carpool lane violations can earn drivers a $186 fine. The fine for repeat offenses in a two-year period is $336, and authorities will slap on an additional $200 if they catch a driver using a doll or dummy in an attempt to trick officers. The fine for cutting in line at a ferry terminal is $139.

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