If you were to look at a map of the state of Florida which shows its toll road systems, what you would likely notice is that it looks much like a spider’s web. In fact, as of 2013, Florida had more toll roads than any other state, and they are broken down into three categories. Most of them are standard toll roads (approximately 21 roads), but there are also 13 toll bridges and causeways and three managed lanes. Managed lanes include reversible lanes and lanes which are toll-free for HOV 3+ or motorcycles. It seems as though the number of these roads is increasing rapidly. The intended purpose of these roads is to allow traffic to flow more smoothly due to fewer impediments than surface streets such as traffic lights or stop signs. This is a fine concept, but it breaks down in practice because the volume of traffic that uses toll roads results in them not working as effectively as they were designed to.
It seems like not paying a toll should not even be a ticketable offense, and a lot of drivers resent having to pay tolls at all. After all, aren’t our taxes supposed to pay for the building and repairs of our infrastructure? Ah ha! Here is the crux of the problem that I have mentioned many times in the past. I can’t say this often enough or clearly enough; I firmly believe that the reason that so many traffic tickets are written in the state of Florida is not out of concern for the safety of its citizens, but to help meet budgetary shortfalls. Tolls are just an extension of this practice. Theoretically, they should only be collected until the cost of that particular highway is paid for, but this is not how things have turned out for most of them. Take Alligator Alley, I-75 and SR 93 in South Florida, for example. It was opened in 1968, and yet the toll for cars is still $3.00 or $2.75 with a SunPass. Surely, those agencies who benefit from collection of tolls would argue that the ‘improvements’ to the road warrant the continued tolls, but it is a moot debate because tolls have been collected continuously for nearly 50 years, even when construction was not in process or recently completed.
Although it is still an option in a lot of places to pay tolls with cash, the number of toll gates that accept this as a means of payment are seemingly becoming fewer and further between. Many have gone to strictly relying upon the use of other methods such as a transponder. It is, therefore, very important when you are traveling to make sure that you know what form of payment is acceptable on any tolls roads that make exist along your route. A transponder is an electronic instrument, such as the SunPass, that adheres to the windshield of a vehicle. As you pass through a toll booth, an electronic sensor scans this device and the amount of the toll is electronically subtracted from a pre-paid account. Using one of these devices usually results in a toll fee that is somewhat less than cash because there are fewer administrative costs associated with this method. In addition to transponders, many areas in the state use a toll-by-plate system. This program is set up by the Florida Department of Transportation and employs a system whereby a picture is taken of your license plate as it crosses into a toll area. A copy of this picture along with the violation is then mailed to the name and address of whomever the car is registered to. This is probably the most costly method of paying a toll, barring getting a traffic ticket for not paying the toll at all, because it requires more administrative interaction.
Once an operator takes a picture of your tag when you go through a toll lane, if you don’t pay in cash and there is no signal received from the transponder, they will mail a notice of the toll violation to the address where the car is registered. Not all drivers are aware that they are entering a toll area until it is too late. If that happens to you and you realize that you committed the toll violation, you can go online to pay the fine without incurring other charges.
It is not difficult to see why people often blow off paying tolls and don’t consider the traffic tickets associated them as “real” traffic citations. After all, it’s just a buck or two, right? Actually, they may not be exciting, but toll violations can be a lot more serious than people realize. If you fail to pay a toll through any of the methods mentioned here, you CAN and probably will get an actual traffic citation. If you don’t pay the traffic ticket, it is then classified as a moving violation which can result in fines of up to $200. Your nominal toll has just gotten exponentially larger; however, do NOT just pay it. Don’t just ignore it either because another consequence of doing so can be a suspended driver’s license. To try to avoid the negative outcome of a toll violation, there are a few things you can do to reduce the odds of getting one. Always ensure that your transponder is working and that it is properly registered to the correct vehicle. Remember that if you move, your car’s registration needs to be updated. Moving is usually quite a chaotic experience and often, changing the address on our registration can fall through the cracks. It is, however, very important that you do so. If the Notice of Toll Violation is sent to your former address, you are still going to be held responsible for any of the fines or penalties that are associated with it. This is a good time to give us a call because we fight this type of traffic ticket frequently. We specialize in all types of traffic tickets and have a 99% success rate. Even if they are not as dramatic as some other traffic citations may be, they should be defended to avoid the very concrete ramifications that can arise from them, so call 954-967-9888 for a free consultation.
Jason Diamond, Esq. is the Founding Lawyer Partner of the Traffic Ticket Team. His Attorneys have over 50 years of combined experience and have handled over 1,000,000 Florida traffic tickets. As Traffic Ticket Lawyers we have given traffic ticket legal clinic seminars throughout Florida. To find Attorney locations, click HERE. Our traffic tickets are defended in Miami-Dade, Broward & Palm Beach counties and we also fight traffic tickets statewide.