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VIRGINIA DRIVERS MAY BE SHARING ROAD WITH REAL DUMMIES

SHARE VIRGINIA DRIVERS MAY BE SHARING ROAD WITH REAL DUMMIES

In their rush to and from work, solo motorists in Virginia sometimes take the road less traveled and stray into lanes reserved for cars with two or more occupants.

One such miscreant was caught by state police last week driving a car that looked as if its windows were fogged up. On close inspection, two motorcycle troopers saw the windows were soaped.As the car passed, the driver seemed in animated conversation with his passenger. The troopers stopped the car anyway and discovered the "passenger" was a dummy with a Halloween mask, glasses, a hat and a scarf.

Fifty bucks plus $26 court costs.

It was a ruse employed before by drivers who want to be in the faster HOV lanes (for High Occupancy Vehicle) on Interstate highways in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.

Another, on Thursday morning, involved a woman, seven months pregnant, who argued she was driving for two. Sgt. Dean Jones said patrolmen have a show-stopper question for that scam: "When you go to the movies, do you pay for two?"

By coincidence, a California company chose this week to introduce Safe-T-Man, "a life-sized personal safety companion," to the Washington area.

Safe-T-Man, according to a Santa Barbara manufacturer by the same name, "looks like a rugged 180-pound man, yet weighs less than a baby. He has a lifelike face and hands made of latex, a full head of hair and a body filled with polyfil."

Safe-T-Man "creates the impression that individuals are not alone in the car, home or any other environment," the firm's publicity says.

No one can say for sure, but state police may have already met Safe-T-Man.

Jones said a car stopped Thursday had three occupants and a very lifelike dummy in the back seat. The men said the dummy was there for protection.

The car qualified for the HOV lanes. But the driver was cited anyway.

He had a radar detector, illegal in Virginia.