Q Gary, you stated that a carpool lane ticket was not a moving violation and didn't affect insurance premiums. I say, "Au contraire!" At least, USAA didn't go along with that. Back in the good old days, when I was commuting with "Henri," my companion dummy, I finally got nailed by a motorcycle cop. All I could say was: "Officer, desperate men do desperate things." They raised my premiums for three years!

Dan D.

Alamo

A This is no joke? You aren't trying to fool me with a tongue-in-cheek story as another reader did recently?

Q No joke, Gary. It's time for "True Confessions." Henri was very realistic -- good head of hair, solid hands, blow-up body in a sitting position. I dressed him for the seasons and he wore shades to conceal the fixed stare.

Safe-T-Man, left, was marketed not as a carpool cheat but as a deterrent to carjackers and other criminals.
Safe-T-Man, left, was marketed not as a carpool cheat but as a deterrent to carjackers and other criminals. (Baltimore Sun)

We commuted for years and rode the diamond lanes with impunity. No patrol car gave us a second glance.

Dan D.

A And then one day ...

Q I met my undoing on Highway 85 and it cost me $300. But when I added up all of the times I used Henri, it cost me $2, which I'd pay willingly anytime.

After the Highway Patrol took Henri away, I received a postcard a couple of months later to "Come pick up your property." There was Henri all deflated in a little box. I was a bit gun-shy for a while, then Henri and I commuted once again.


Advertisement

Finally, Henri started losing air from various leaks. Sometimes he would sag as we approached a gendarme and I would have to stick an elbow in his ribs to prop him up until we passed the danger. Sadly, Henri became no longer viable and had to be retired.

Dan D.

A Baby-sized dolls in infants seats are also common. My favorite, though, is a guy on Highway 237 who dressed up a large dog and prompted a reader to write:

"Gary, I'm driving down 237 when I spot this car in the carpool lane. There's a woman passenger in the car with a hat on, only her long, floppy hair is really askew and I'm thinking she is having the worst hair day ever. I pull next to this car and the woman passenger isn't a woman, but a big, shaggy dog with long hair sitting in the front."

A common tactic is to dress up a baby-sized doll in a car seat. But the dog trick is my favorite. Can anyone top it?

A carpool ticket is not a moving violation and your insurance rates probably should not have risen, said Tully-the-Roadshow-Insurance-Expert. But a warning: Today that ticket would cost more than $500.

Q Regarding stories of clever carpool cheaters, I was on Highway 101 when I saw the final moments of a CHP officer who had ticketed a carpool cheater who was apparently using a full-sized mannequin in the passenger seat. The officer was walking away with the mannequin under his arm as the perp was pulling back onto the freeway. The kicker? This was a motorcycle CHP officer.

I've often wondered what he did with the mannequin -- strap it on the back of the bike?

Eric Wampler

San Jose

A Now that would be quite a sight -- a motorcycle cop carrying a mannequin.

Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow, follow him at Twitter.com/mrroadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.