One driver owes a staggering $57,000.
New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has announced that officials have stopped and towed a record number of cars belonging to toll violators. In an operation carried out on January 11, Bridge and Tunnels officers stopped 21 vehicles (17 on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge) owned by people who owed more than $400,000 in unpaid tolls and fees.
A Mazda CX-5 driver is responsible for $57,000 of that debt and reportedly had more than 500 violations when caught. MTA officials told the New York Post that "he said he wasn't aware he owed any tolls," said TBTA Officer David Rivera. "I went inside the glove compartment and there were a bunch of orange envelopes with the notices inside."
A 30-year-old Ford Mustang driver is said to have burst into tears when he was nabbed. The distraught motorist reportedly called his father and handed the phone over to Rivera. "I just explained to his father that the car was unregistered, and we were taking it in."
The MTA says it loses approximately $50 million in revenue every year due to evaders. Operations such as this, however, enable the agency to recover more than 40% of 2022's losses. Funds garnered from tolls are reinvested into MTA facilities and keep mass transit systems running smoothly.
Officer Lede remarked that the public is likely unaware of the MTA's crime-foiling tech. "Within one or two seconds of passing through the gantry, we're notified in the car that this plate is on the bridge, a known toll violator. The gantry notifies us instantly."
Offenders were either taken home or driven to the nearest train station, as their vehicles were towed to an MTA facility. Owners can reclaim their vehicles by paying the respective owed amounts, along with $100 fines that are issued to persistent toll violators every time they travel through one of the MTA's tolls or crossings.
Interestingly, MTA officials note that some devious drivers know they're going to lose their cars and flee the scene. MTA doesn't chase violators but rather waits for them to cross a bridge again.
"Most people are pretty calm until they realize they're losing their car. Eventually, they give it up, but, you know, it's hard for a lot of people. Their car is their baby. Or it could be there they're in the car with their family or they're going to work, it's bad sometimes," added Rivera.
People will go to great lengths to avoid paying toll costs. A few years back, we reported on a Florida motorist who designed a powered license plate concealer. While this saved him a few dollars in the short term, his luck ran out when a police officer spotted the device in action. The driver was later charged with petty theft.
It's unfortunate for these owners but, as MTA President Daniel F. DeCrescenzo Jr. stated, "drivers who do not pay their tolls may be subject to registration suspension and loss of their vehicle." While we applaud law enforcement agencies for punishing law-bending motorists, sometimes the innocent are unfairly targeted.
For months, a Florida woman was receiving traffic violations in Washington state as a Lexus SUV with stolen plates registered in her name racked up hundreds of dollars worth of fines. Thankfully, her name was cleared.