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CHP: Santa Rosa carpool cheat caught with female mannequin in passenger seat

Something was just off about the young lady in sunglasses wearing a thick sweatshirt sitting in the passenger seat of the car in the southbound carpool lane of Highway 101 during rush hour Friday in southern Santa Rosa, according to the CHP.

Officer Ken Enger stopped the driver about 5:10 p.m. Friday near Todd Road and peered inside. The young woman was actually a mannequin. The driver was using it to qualify for the carpool lane.

The male driver told the officer he had a long commute from Lake County to Novato.

The CHP, mixing a cautionary tale and a little bit of fun, posted the “rider’s” picture on Facebook and noted that “Officer Enger, a trained observer of human nature and fashion, concluded it was far too warm for such a thick hoodie. He called shenanigans, made a stop and took the appropriate enforcement action.”

In Sonoma County, carpool lanes are set aside at peak driving times for vehicles carrying two or more people. But for commuters who wait in rush hour traffic, and who complain bitterly to anyone who will listen, a good percentage of vehicles in carpool lanes on Highway 101 in Sonoma County violate the law.

“People hate carpool cheaters,” the CHP’s post read. “We get calls every day complaining about them and we catch them every day.”

The driver was given a ticket, according to the CHP, with a minimum fine of $491.

Drivers use various tactics to evade enforcement on Highway 101, said CHP Officer Kerri Post.

“Some people try to put hats on head rests, wrap plastic bags around it for a face and then drape a jacket on the seat,” Post said. “Other times people put baby dolls in car seats.”

For Enger, it was all in a day’s work.

Two years ago he rescued a 600-800 pound pig named June who’d broken free and fallen asleep near Highway 12 and Merced Avenue in Santa Rosa.

Staff Writer Nick Rahaim contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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