The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has identified issues with its enforcement system that resulted in a two-year backlog of unsent toll violation notices for many Indiana customers. Some drivers traveled the tollway without paying, but were not notified because of problems matching Indiana license plates and verifying license plate ownership, coupled with the violation system’s inability to identify backlogged violations.
The Tollway board’s Customer Service Working Group has recommended to the full board that the violation notices be issued to Indiana residents covering a two-year period from July 2008 to June 2010. Based on this proposal, the Tollway would seek to collect $1.6 million in unpaid tolls, excluding fines, from approximately 116,000 Indiana customers.
“Despite the Tollway’s continuing efforts to improve the violation enforcement system, we have recently learned that flaws remain, especially when it comes to addressing license plates and license plate data collection from outside Illinois,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “Our customers expect and deserve a system that is reliable, consistent and fair.”
The proposal to pursue the two-year backlog of toll violations was endorsed by the Tollway’s Customer Service Working Group at its meeting on Aug. 23 and will be reviewed by the full board of directors at its Aug. 26 meeting.
“Absent a formal policy, we support issuing notices for the full two-year backlog, because it is consistent with what we’ve done in the past,” said Director and Chair of the Customer Service Working Group Bill Morris. “This proposal also attempts to treat all of our customers fairly.”
The state of Indiana elected to change the format of its license plates in 2007, prompting the Illinois Tollway to work closely with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to ensure accurate identification of vehicles with Indiana license plates. However, despite this collaborative effort, the Tollway’s violation enforcement system failed to issue notices to Indiana customers in a timely manner.
“This Indiana issue has raised deeper concerns for me about our violation enforcement system,” said Lafleur. “As a result, I have recommended a third-party audit of the system to identify existing challenges and prevent issues like this from happening in the future.”
Executive Director Lafleur’s plan to conduct a third-party audit of the violation enforcement system was unanimously endorsed by the Customer Service Working Group at its meeting.
The working group also affirmed its commitment to adopt by the end of the year a more formal policy regarding the issuance of toll violation notices that are not issued as part of the normal violation cycle.
Under the Illinois Tollway’s violation enforcement system, notices are sent to all violators accumulating three or more toll violations over a two-year period. Violation notices require payment of all missed tolls, and $20 fines are assessed for every unpaid toll. I-Pass customers receiving violation notices are expected to bring their accounts up to date and pay missed tolls in return for a waiver of fines. Violators have 21 days to either pay the fines or request a hearing to contest the violation notices. If notices or hearing findings are ignored, additional penalties can apply including increased fines by $50 to $70 per violation and referral to collection agencies.
Indiana toll violation notices that occurred after June 2010 are currently being issued through the regular violation notice cycle.