The Escalating Cost of Toll Violations
It has happened to everyone. After driving through either a toll booth or under the Open Road Tolling, we have asked ourselves whether the toll registered and, if not, how will I know? If you have not asked yourself this question, you should have. As all Illinois drivers know, driving in Illinois often, too often, involves the use of the tollway. The more Illinois drivers travel on the tollways, their chances of committing a toll violation increase exponentially.
In order to avoid committing a toll violation, it is import to know the process by which the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (“Authority”) accesses and records violations.
- The Authority records every time a car passes under the Open Road Tolling or through a toll booth. If a toll is not paid, you have a seven (7) day grace period (AGrace Period@) in which to pay without incurring additional costs and fines (see below). The Authority records the violation and tracks the missed payment;
- The Authority places the burden on I-Pass account holders to ensure that their account is properly funded and accurate, regardless of emails or other notifications you may receive. The most efficient way to ensure your transponder is working and your account is funded is to visit the Illinois Tollway at www.illinoistollway.com and create an on-line account;
- If you have missed a toll, for whatever reason, and do not pay within the Grace Period, the Authority will send you notice of the violation and the balance due: amount of the toll plus $20.00. If you do not pay by the due date, usually 14 days, the Authority adds another $70.00 fine to the $20.00 fine already assessed. As way of illustration: A is heading north on 294. Unbeknownst to A, her transponder malfunctions at the Touhy Toll Plaza and the toll is not paid. On A’s way back through the Toll, A’s transponder again malfunctions. 14 days later, A receives notice of the missed tolls. The notice tells her that she owes $42.00 for two missed tolls and needs to remit payment within 14 days. A recently received an email saying her funds are low and her credit card has been charged to replenish her account and ignores the notices. Unfortunately for A, her reasons for missing are immaterial and she now owes $182.00 for two missed tolls;
- The Authority’s notice of violation is considered received upon mailing. The Authority sends notices to the address that corresponds with the address listed on either the vehicle registration or the vehicle owner’s drivers’ license. It is not a defense to claim you did not receive notice if the notice was mailed to either of these addresses. If you moved, you should alert the Illinois Secretary of State of your new address.
In order to avoid A’s mistakes and to give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding toll violations and the corresponding fines, here are some helpful tips to follow:
- Periodically check your toll account to ensure that the payment was deducted from your I-Pass account;
- If your transponder is located in the license plate holder, make sure that it is periodically cleaned and not covered up by dirt or other residue or it may not operate properly;
- If you believe that you have committed a toll violation, you should immediately go online and check to see if a violation occurred before the Grace Period expires;
- If you receive notice of violation, immediately remit payment before the due date expires. If you feel the violation is in error, contact the Authority immediately;
- Link your I-Pass account to a credit or debit card. That way, whenever the balance drops below a certain amount, the Authority will charge your credit card and replenish your account automatically. After linking your I-Pass account to your credit card, make sure you update your card information.
In addition to the heavy fines, after 5 violations, the Authority can petition the Illinois Secretary of State to suspend the violator’s drivers’ license and request an administrative hearing. At that hearing, the violator will be allowed to present evidence and be represented by council. If the Authority prevails, it will enter judgment against the violator. If the fines are not paid, the matter will likely be turned over to a private collection agency or a law firm and additional fees and costs may be assessed.
If you are contacted by either the Authority or a law firm representing the Authority in an attempt to collect fines or a judgment for toll violations, there are some basic facts to remember:
- It is best to use a law firm to negotiate for you. The rules the Authority uses are complex;
- Make sure that any agreement you reach regarding satisfaction of toll violations is in writing and approved by the Illinois Attorney General.
- If the Attorney General has not approved of or agreed to your settlement then the settlement could be rejected and all fines and violations reinstated, even if already paid; and
- If you fail to reach a settlement on your violations, you will be responsible to pay the entire amount and could be listed on the Illinois Scofflaw Registry which lists the companies or persons that have the largest outstanding unpaid balances. That list is public knowledge and can negatively affect you or your business.
If you follow these steps, you can avoid incurring multiple fines which could equate to thousands of dollars. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have been accused of toll violations please feel free to call DiMonte & Lizak at 847-698-9600.