Published on Thursday, October 26, 2006
in the Palm Beach Post
Turnpike officials and the Florida Highway Patrol this morning announced a crackdown on toll violators, called "Toll Abuse. No Excuse."
FHP troopers and officers from the Florida Department of Transportation's motor carrier compliance office will spend more time at toll plazas, particularly ones with a high number of violations.
Billboards, signs and banners will go up along the highway and at rest areas alerting motorists to the campaign. Word also will go out on radio traffic reports.
The stepped-up enforcement is targeting hard-core offenders, turnpike spokesman Chad Huff said. Authorities have identified 11 people with 125 to 149 violations, nine individuals with 150 to 174 violations, six toll abusers with 175 to 275 violations and one person with more than 276 violations.
Images from toll booth cameras show motorists using feet, hands, CDs and envelopes to cover their license plates to avoid being caught on video.
As part of the crackdown, the turnpike intends to change its rules, which give drivers two free passes. Now, no action is taken after the first violation and a warning letter is sent following the second offense. After the third violation, the driver is sent a traffic citation.
Florida is one of the few states that still uses "progressive enforcement," and needs to change to keep up advancements in electronic toll technology, said James Ely, the turnpike's executive director.
The new policy will offer no forgiveness. A notice will be sent on the first violation and if the money is not paid in 30 days, a traffic citation will be filed in court. The citation carries a $118.50 fine in Palm Beach County.
The turnpike also will ask the state Legislature to toughen laws on unpaid tolls.