Md. Mends Loophole That Let Drivers Blow Through Tolls Without Paying, Consequence-Free
LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — No cash? No E-ZPass? No problem! That’s been the attitude of some motorists who have been blowing through the E-ZPass lanes on Maryland tolls roads to avoid paying the fee.
And a legal loophole that allowed the scofflaws to avoid payment without consequence, even after letters were sent to their homes, is partially to blame for more than $6.7 million in tolls going unpaid over the past 5 years.
But that’s all about to change, thanks to a law that went into effect on July 1.
E-ZPass lanes on the state’s toll roads are meant to make passing through booths quicker and easier for those with E-ZPass transponders, which automatically pay the fees from prepaid accounts. When drivers who don’t have accounts take advantage of the open lanes and drive through scot-free, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) sends them letters, warning that their vehicle registration could be suspended if the debt is not settled.
However, according to state law, a $50 citation must also be dished out before the Motor Vehicle Administration can suspend a registration. Since the MDTA hasn’t been doling out the citations, a Maryland registration has not been suspended due to unpaid tolls in more than two years.
MTA officials have said citations are not issued because it’s actually legal for those without E-ZPass accounts to use the E-ZPass lanes. The practice is called “video tolling,” and it allows motorists without transponders to use the lanes and pay when they get a notice in the mail. Their license plate numbers are recorded as they drive through the booths. Officials have argued that people who choose that option should be given more time to pay before they are penalized.
The problem, of course, lies in the fact that some simply ignore the notice.
The Washington Post has reported that several car rental companies owe between $80,000 and $200,000 in toll fees. About 15,000 individuals owe more than $500 a piece.
The new law should serve to prevent millions of dollars of loss in the future and recoup the unpaid fees.
MDTA officials say they will continue video tolling at all eight toll facilities but vehicle owners who do not pay acknowledge their mail notice within 30 days will receive a civil citation and $50 fine for each toll violation on top of the tolls themselves. Failure to pay the toll and fine will now lead to non-renewal or suspension of the owner’s vehicle registration.
The law will also allow anyone who accrued an unpaid toll prior to July 1 an opportunity to pay their balance without any extra fees. Violators who do not take advantage of the transition period will receive a new “Notice of Toll(s) Due” beginning in October and then will be subject to a civil citation and $50 fine for each violation.
Those with unpaid tolls can pay by:
- Visiting ezpassmd.com
- Mailing a check/money order payable to E-ZPass Maryland to P.O. Box 17600, Baltimore, MD 21297
- Visiting an E-ZPass Maryland Stop-In Center
- Calling the E-ZPass Maryland Customer Service Center during regular business hours (7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Friday) at 1-888-321-6824
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