Commentary: New I-95 lanes mean sex dolls can stay home

The Florida Department of Transportation, in a terrible blow to the sex doll industry, replaces a seven-mile stretch of the northbound carpool lane on Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade County with variable-priced toll lanes. By next year, the southbound lane will be converted. By 2011, pay-to-go express lanes will extend through Broward County.

Lonely commuters will be forced to swap their Aspen Love Doll ($24.95, "Ride her slippery slopes") for a SunPass Mini sticker transponder ($4.99).

The region's collection of life-sized dolls will be relegated to some subsidiary purpose. And no small piece of South Florida's cultural history will vanish.

For years, commuters too socially inept to find companionship for the carpool lanes faked it. A store clerk at the Spice of Life adult novelty store in Sunrise remembered selling several blow-up sex dolls to lonely guys in need of girls for illicit rendezvous in the I-95 HOV (rhymes with love, unless you prefer the official but unromantic High Occupancy Vehicle) lane. "One customer told me he actually got the idea from the cop who gave him a ticket," the clerk told me Wednesday.

Over the years, in a strong indication that carpool lanes weren't working out so well, police in South Florida and other traffic-clogged regions found commuters cheating their way into the fast lane with all kinds of ersatz passengers. Drivers were accompanied by life-sized cardboard cut-outs of famous movie characters (as if a state trooper wouldn't think twice about Han Solo ($29.95) riding shotgun down I-95 in a 1988 Civic), by faceless store mannequins, by wigs strapped onto passenger-seat head restraints, by baby dolls in infant seats, even by balloons decorated with face drawings.

Troopers reported that pregnant women would argue that they should be counted as both driver and passenger. In Miami, police said a funeral home worker claimed a body in back should have qualified his hearse as a high occupancy vehicle.

To read the complete column, visit The Miami Herald.