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Considering Buying A Hybrid To Use HOV? Do It Before July 1

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New hybrids registered in Northern Virginia after July 1 won't have access to the HOV lanes on I-66 during rush hour.
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New hybrids registered in Northern Virginia after July 1 won't have access to the HOV lanes on I-66 during rush hour.

As of July 1, newly registered hybrid vehicles will no longer have access to the HOV lanes on I-66. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing a different license plate to hybrid vehicles; only hybrids with the old plates will be permitted in the HOV lanes on I-66.

So if you've been considering taking the plunge with a Prius or other hybrid, get on it. It can take a couple of weeks to actually get the special license plates for hybrids, and if you don't have them by July 1, you'll be out of luck.

"If you're thinking of getting a hybrid, you definitely want to get it well before July 1, because it takes awhile to get those clean fuel plates," says VDOT spokesperson Joan Morris.

The change is similar to one the Assembly implemented earlier for the area's other designated carpool lanes. Hybrids used to be allowed on the I-95 and I-395 HOV lanes during rush hour, but the law changed in 2006 to limit the number of vehicles accessing the lanes.

The change is meant to combat the increasingly crowded HOV lanes, Morris says. The number of hybrid vehicles registered in Northern Virginia has increased exponentially in recent years. DMV stats show that in 2003, there were 2,500 hybrids registered. At the end of 2009, there were almost 19,000.

"The lanes are first and foremost for carpools," Morris says.

On I-66, hybrids account for about 17 percent of HOV rush hour traffic inside the beltway, and about 22 percent of that traffic outside the beltway, Morris says.

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