Dear ABC News Fixer: Driving Solo in the Carpool Lane

Dear Keith: It's a good thing you came to us...

April 18, 2013 — -- Dear ABC News Fixer: I purchased a new 2013 Ford C-Max Energi in California, which qualifies to drive solo in the carpool lane. I applied for my HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane stickers on Feb. 9. Eight weeks later, still no stickers.

The stickers have only 21 months left, and California is not sending them out. If not for this offer, I would not have bought the vehicle.

When I try to contact the California DMV, all I get -- if I'm lucky -- is that they are behind and will process it soon.

- Keith Laband, Crestline, Calif.

Dear Keith: It's a good thing you came to the ABC News Fixer, because you would have been waiting a long time.

It turns out there was a mistake in your file, which was causing the hold-up. More on that in a sec.

First, a note about this clean air stickers program. Golden State motorists with qualifying plug-in hybrid cars can pay $8 for a green sticker, which lets them into the carpool lanes on California's famously clogged roadways. The state has a maximum of 40,000 green stickers available and about 12,000 have been issued.

Drivers with cars that are totally electric-powered or that run on hydrogen fuel cells or compressed natural gas can get a white sticker for HOV lane access. There are just over 23,200 of these white stickers on the roads in California, with unlimited availability.

You told the ABC News Fixer that the sticker would cut your commute time in half, and that it pains you to watch those other lucky drivers zipping past in the HOV lanes as you trudge along in the slow lanes.

At first, we thought perhaps there was a crush of people applying and the Department of Motor Vehicles couldn't keep up. But happy drivers were commenting online about how quickly they had received theirs, so we made a few calls.

As it turns out, the dealership apparently mismarked your eco-friendly plug-in hybrid as a gas-powered car, thereby holding up the approval. The DMV is sending you a form to take to the dealer to correct that. You'll mail it back directly to the department head, and from there you should be good to go.

Meanwhile, you are correct that the stickers program is set to end Jan. 1, 2015. But you and other environmentally friendly drivers may be in luck: State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation that would extend the stickers until Jan. 1, 2018.

- The ABC News Fixer

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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