A New Zealand driver walked away with a $150 ticket and probably a healthy dose of embarrassment on Wednesday when he was caught driving in a carpool lane in Auckland with no companion, other than the mannequin in his passenger seat.
“The driver was rather sheepish, apologized and said it was the first time he'd done it,” police Sgt. Brett Henshaw told The New Zealand Herald.
Police said they had set up a checkpoint in the so-called T2 lane of the Constellation Drive Northern Motorway when an officer spotted the unusual occupant.
They stopped the man and gave him the $150 citation for “unauthorized use of a special vehicle lane.”
Henshaw told The Herald that police receive numerous complaints from other motorists about people using the carpool lanes without having passengers, so they conduct regular patrols to make sure everyone has a “bona-fide reason” to be using the faster-moving lanes.
"No one enjoys sitting in traffic and we've all experienced the frustration of waiting your turn, only to see someone who is the sole occupant of their car sailing past in the T2 lane,” Henshaw said.
The problem is not isolated to New Zealand. Drivers using carpool dummies seems to have become something of a regular occurrence in the United States.
In February, CBS-New York reported a Long Island man, 56-year-old James Campbell, got caught driving in a high occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lane with a wooden dummy as a passenger. The fake passenger was constructed out of lumber and covered with a hooded sweatshirt.
The officer who pulled Campbell over, Suffolk County Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Abrams, said Campbell told him he didn’t want to be late to work.
“He definitely looked ashamed; he knew he was caught,” Abrams was quoted as saying.
“I saved my chuckling for after I walked away from their car, and they’re not going to believe this one back at the office,” he added.
Despite looking ashamed, Campbell said in a subsequent interview that he used his dummy later that same day for his drive home from work.
“I think it’s fun,” he said.
He added that he had no intention of leaving his passenger behind and that he planned to keep using it.
“I’ll still give it a shot,” he said. “I’ll change outfits.”
Campbell’s crudely built dummy later landed him at the top of CNN’s “The Dumbest HOV Lane Dummies Of All Time,” a list and slideshow that ran in March.