More on Slugging

Slugging defined: Unless you are from the big city, you may have never heard of the term “slug” in reference to a commuter. 

But Northern Virginians and many people who travel long distances to work in the Hampton Roads area are very familiar with the term. 

It does not refer to a slimy, snail-like creature, nor to a slothful person, though sluggers do like to catch a free ride to work. 

Slugging is referred to as casual carpooling.

Northern Virginia slug driverThe way it works is this: 

A car needing additional passengers to meet the required three-person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) minimum pulls up to one of the known slug lines. 

The driver calls out the destination, such as "Pentagon" "L'Enfant Plaza" or "14th and New York." 

The slugs first in line for that particular destination then hop into the car, and off they go. 

For more information on slugging, go to

Slugging rules: Sluggers do not:

  • Eat or drink
  • Fiddle with the radio
  • Roll down the window
  • Adjust the heat or air conditioning
  • Speak unless spoken to
  • Talk on a cell phone
  • Discuss politics or religion

History of slugging

Dave LeBlanc, author of the book "Slugging: The Commuting Alternative to Washington, D.C.," said slugging first began to occur after HOV lanes opened in 1971.

According to LeBlanc, the term "slug" came from the origins of the custom. 

Evidently, a bright driver of yesteryear needed warm bodies to qualify for the HOV lanes and drove to local bus stops looking for riders. 

Soon, riders waiting at bus stops started declining bus rides in favor of the free car rides. 

The bus drivers began to call these reluctant riders "counterfeit commuters.” 

The renegades, who were jumping into cars with strangers, began calling themselves "slugs," after false coins.


Page last modified: Nov. 1, 2019