Many people choose to drive hybrid cars because the hybrids have a smaller carbon footprint than your average car. However, there are added benefits to driving a hybrid. In some states, you are legally allowed to drive your hybrid in the carpool lane. Each state has their own set of rules. Some require plates. Others require stickers. This article will help you figure out what you?ll need to do to get your hybrid into the fast lane.

A few of the states cite this list of cars as the ones that qualify for HOV clearance. As you can see, the list is a bit outdated. 45 miles per gallon seems to be the rule of thumb for fuel efficiency, but check with state officials for updated lists.

Let's take a look at the states and what they demand from the commuter:

California

California has issued 85,000 clean-air stickers to hybrid owners. They have no plans for issuing more stickers. Any applications for hybrid access will be denied. However, the program expires in 2011. They may renew the program and allow people to register again. Get an application early.

Colorado

As of May 15, 2008, Colorado has begun accepting applications for hybrid owners who wish to driver in the carpool lane. Only 2000 people are being accepted. The stickers expire in September 30, 2009. There is no fee for the permit, but you will have to fill out an application. You can fill one out online.

Arizona

Arizona began a pilot program last year. They?ve issued 10,000 energy-efficient plates to owners of Honda Insights, Toyota Priuses (Priusi?) and Honda Civic Hybrids. No more plates will be issued, until the Arizona Department of Transportation changes its mind.

Florida

Anyone who owns an inherently low emission vehicle or a hybrid electric vehicle may drive in the carpool lanes in Florida. You must obtain a sticker. The sticker costs five dollars and is renewed annually. Call your Floridian DMV for more details.

New York

Owners of Honda Civic Hybrids and Toyota Prius Hybrids are eligible for a Clean Air Pass in the state of New York. Here is how to get one.

The New York State Department of Transportation

Applications will be taken over the phone, by calling the State Department of Motor Vehicles at 1 (518) 486-9786, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Upon application approval, DMV will mail the stickers with instructions to the registered owner of the vehicle. Have your NYS vehicle registration card available to provide information to the DMV representative. There is no fee for the stickers. After the application is approved, your Clean Pass vehicle stickers and information about the program will arrive by mail within 10 days.

New Jersey

The Garden State allows hybrids and other fuel efficient cars into the diamond lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike. Here is a list of the eligible cars:

- FORD ESCAPE HYBRID

- HONDA CIVIC HYBRID INSIGHT HYBRID ACCORD HYBRID

- LEXUS RX400H HYBRID GS450H HYBRID

- MAZDA TRIBUTE HYBRID

- MERCURY MARINER HYBRID

- NISSAN ALTIMA HYBRID

- SATURN AURA HYBRID VUE HYBRID

- TOYOTA PRIUS HYBRID HIGHLANDER HYBRID CAMRY HYBRID

In addition, alternative fuel vehicles that operate on electricity, methanol, ethanol, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, coal derived liquid fuels, fuels derived from biological materials and any other federally approved alternative fuel vehicles will be permitted to utilize the NJTA?s HOV lanes.

Tennessee

The Volunteer State has begun accepting applications to their Smart Pass Program. You can apply online. There is no charge.

Utah

From Utah?s Department of Transportation.

Owners of a qualifying ILEV (inherently low emissions vehicle) or hybrid vehicle that wish to obtain a C Plate must first obtain a C Plate Permit from UDOT. The vehicle owner must complete an application issued by UDOT that contains the vehicle owner's information and the vehicle information. If more applications for C Plate Permits are received than the total number of available permits at any one time, permits will be issued to randomly chosen applicants.

Vehicle owners that have received a C Plate Permit from UDOT will take the permit to the Division of Motor Vehicles to obtain a C Plate. [url='http://udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg:381270381674941:::1:T,V:2280,39929',pply here[/url].

Virginia

In Virginia you have to apply for a special plate. Here is a list of eligible fuel-efficient cars. You can apply for a plate online. Virginia?s HOV program is set to expire in June 2009. It might be renewed again, but you have been warned.

Take Note

Remember each state's rules and regulations are more rigorous than the information posted here. This is simply an article to help people get their hybrids in the fast lane. Make sure to read all information that comes with your clean air stickers or plates.