In Your Corner: Missed Toll Proves Costly

By Ryan Elijah

March 18, 2011 Updated Mar 18, 2011 at 8:23 AM EDT

A Garrett man wonders how some missed tolls led to a bill for hundreds of dollars.

Robert Sturges travels often for his missions work with Gospel For Asia. In May, he was traveling with 2 men through Illinois and they weren't prepared for what they encountered on the Tollway.

"the only lane open was the I-PASS lane, so even though I slowed down and looked for a lane, I couldn't see anything.", said Robert Sturges.

Nearly 5 months later a notice arrived in October from the lllinois Tollway stating that he owed $146, including a $20 fine for each of the 7 tolls missed.

"we had no idea we missed a toll, I called right away and they said 'we're sorry there's nothing we can do, we have a picture of your car'", said Sturges.

Robert filed for a hearing, but several weeks went by without notice, when he called he was told, he not only lost the hearing, but another $50 was added to each fine pushing his debt to nearly $500 and his account was turned over to a collections agency.

"I felt like I had no recourse, I have to pay or get a lawyer"

Starting last fall the Illinois Tollway started sending out 7-million dollars worth of fines to over 100-thousand Hoosiers to clear up back tolls from 2008 that stemmed from a problem with how Indiana numbered plates. Some of the fines were thousands of dollars and included $20 fines for each missed toll.

Robert's case is not related to those back fines, but the accounting is similar. I spoke to an official at the Tollway who told me there is a 7-day grace period before fines, a policy directed at drivers like Robert who might mistakenly miss a toll. Illinois' Administrative Code does authorize the Tollway to issue the fines.

The Illinois Tollway has informed us that Robert can settle his case by paying the original notice of 146 dollars, something he plans to do. His case is a good reminder of how a small mistake can quickly lead to a very expensive problem.

According to the Illinois Tollway, 83% of customers using the Tollway use I-PASS and EZ-Pass accounts. They say signs on the Tollway also alert customers to the policy if a toll is accidently missed.

While, the Illinois Tollway cannot take action against the registrations or licenses of Indiana drivers, they can turn accounts over to a collection agency.

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