Not just tolls: E-Z Pass keeping an eye on speeders

Not just tolls: E-Z Pass keeping an eye on speeders
  
By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY 2:28 p.m. EST December 19, 2014

Warning to motorists: Don't speed in the toll lanes. E-Z Pass is watching.

Several states, including New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania, say they monitor speeds through the fast pass toll lanes and will suspend your E-Z Pass for multiple speeding violations.

In all, five of the 15 E-Z Pass states have some kind of rules on the books for breaking the speed limit in the convenience lanes.

"You can lose your E-Z Pass privileges if you speed through E-Z Pass lanes," says Dan Weiller, director of communications for the New York State Thruway Authority. "You get a couple of warnings. We don't have the power to give a ticket, but we do have to power to revoke your E-Z Pass, which we will."

He and tolling officials in several other states say the issue is the safety of human toll collectors. "At most toll barriers, we have a mix of E-Z Pass lanes and standard toll lanes," Weiller says.

On Maryland toll roads, drivers' speed is monitored in the free-flowing toll lanes, which have a 30 mph speed limit, says Becky Freeberger, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority. "If we clock you at 12 mph more than that, we will send you a warning, saying slow down," she says. "It's not a ticket." If a driver gets a second such notice within six months, their E-Z Pass account can be suspended for up to 60 days.

In Pennsylvania, a warning usually suffices for lead-footed drivers, says Carl DeFebo, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. "If a collector spots an E-Z Pass customer blasting through at a high rate of speed, they'll get a license plate," he says. "We do have the ability to send a warning letter to the customer, and that has proven effective. If the customer doesn't heed the warning we have the ability to suspend their E-Z Pass privileges but we haven't done that recently."

DeFebo notes that while states can collect tolls using transponders based in other states, they don't yet have the ability to access the account information of out-of-state drivers. "We don't have the ability to send a warning letter to those customers," he says. "As far as I know there is no reciprocity (with other states) on this issue."

That's one reason the state is slow to suspend E-Z Pass accounts, he says. "It would be like letting others get off the hook but going after our own customers."

West Virginia can suspend the accounts of E-Z Pass customers who repeatedly speed but rarely does so, says Etta Keeney, customer services supervisor with West Virginia Parkways Authority.

"If they're over a certain speed, they receive an informational letter, like a warning, please slow down for your safety and ours," she says. "If they continue to speed, if it's like a habitual problem, we can take their privileges."

In Rhode Island lasers are used to monitor speeds in E-Z Pass lanes on the Newport Bridge, also known as the Claiborne Pell Bridge, the state's only tolled facility, says Jim Swanberg, director of plaza operations, safety and security for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. He says drivers can be "disqualified" for speeding after getting a warning.

Police enforce speed limits on E-Z Pass toll roads, and some states say they don't gather any information on motorists' speed.

In Virginia, E-Z Pass account holders sign a customer agreement to abide by the speed limit through toll plazas, says Tamara Rollison, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. "There is no consequence spelled out if someone breaks the speed limit regarding their E-Z Pass usage," she says. "The expectation is you obey the law."

On North Carolina's Quick Pass toll roads, which also accept E-Z Pass accounts, driver speeds are not monitored, says Steve Abbott, a spokesman with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The state's toll roads, which opened in 2011, were the first in the nation to be built without toll booths, he says. "It's all transponders or (billing) by mail," Abbott says. "If you drive it at 20 mph or 70 mph, it doesn't note the speed of the vehicle," he says.

Speeding and the other E-Z Pass states:

Delaware. "We don't monitor speeds with the E-Z Pass system," says Mike Williams, chief of communications with the state Division of Motor Vehicles. "Speeding is a law enforcement issue in Delaware.

Maine. Speeds are not monitored, says Erin Courtney, a spokeswoman with the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Massachusetts. E-Z Pass does not monitor drivers' speeds on toll roads nor as they drive through toll plazas; drivers don't lose E-Z Pass privileges for speeding through toll plazas, says Amanda Richard, deputy press secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

New Hampshire. "New Hampshire Turnpike System presently does not use the E-Z Pass equipment in the toll plazas or open road toll lanes to collect speed data and enforce speeds through the plaza or toll zone, nor do we suspend E-Z Pass privileges," says Christopher Waszczuk, administrator of the New Hampshire Bureau of Turnpikes. "The state police is used to legally enforce the speed limit in locations susceptible to speeding."

New Jersey. The E-Z Pass equipment at toll plazas on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway records the speed of vehicles coming through, says Thomas Feeney, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. "But we don't issue tickets or suspend privileges," he says.

Ohio. "We do not monitor speed using E-Z Pass," says Adam Greenslade, spokesman for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission. "Also, as far as speeding at our toll plazas is concerned, we have a completely gated system. Therefore, even E-Z Pass users are required to slow down enough to give the gate time to open."

Information for E-Z Pass in Indiana and I-PASS in Illinois was not available.



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