Police: Man Caught Driving In Long Island Expressway HOV Lane With Fake Passenger

Highway Patrol Officer Says Figure Made Of 'Large Popsicle Sticks' Found Riding Shotgun

DIX HILLS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)  A Long Island man was caught Friday morning driving in an HOV lane with a fake passenger in his vehicle, Suffolk County police said.

It happened on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills.

At around 6:30 a.m., police said Suffolk County Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Abrams spotted a red pickup truck speeding in the westbound HOV lane near Exit 51.

When he pulled the truck over, Abrams said he saw a wooden figure wearing a hooded sweatshirt seated in the passenger seat.

“I noticed that the front seat passenger was not a person,” Abrams told 1010 WINS. “It was constructed as if it was Popsicle sticks, large Popsicle sticks. It was the shape of a torso with a head on top with the hood pulled up over the head.”

The driver, 56-year-old James Campbell, told the officer he was driving to a new job and didn’t want to be late, police said. Specifically, Campbell said his job as an industrial painter had moved.

“He definitely looked ashamed; he knew he was caught,” Abrams told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.

“He didn’t want to be late to work, so he had assembled this thing and kept it in his car so he could use the HOV lane to get to work faster,” Abrams said.

Abrams couldn’t believe it.

“I saved my chuckling for after I walked away from their car, and they’re not going to believe this one back at the office,” he said.

Campbell claims the dummy momentarily fooled even the officer who pulled him over.

“He said, ‘Passenger, can I see some ID?’ And I said, ‘Officer, I don’t think so,’” Campbell told TV 10/55’s Richard Rose.

Speaking to reporters Friday evening, Campbell said it was the first time he had been busted. He said he also has a similar figure that represents a wooden female.

Campbell was issued summonses for speeding and occupancy violation. But he was allowed to keep the dummy.

After being released by police, Campbell said he drove back home in the HOV lane with the wooden passenger again, this time without getting caught.

“I’ve been using it for months,” he said.

This was not the first time drivers have used such a trick to take advantage of a faster HOV lane. Dummies and mannequins in the passenger seat also made headlines in 2008 and 2010, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.

“I think it’s fun,” Campbell said.

Campbell said he has no intention of retiring his dummy now that he has gotten caught.

“I’ll still give it a shot,” he said. “I’ll change outfits.”

Police said they wanted to reinforce that Campbell’s actions are illegal, and they will be on the lookout for him.

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