Man loses tags over unpaid tolls

The Baltimore Sun

A Rosedale man lost his license plates this week after he was found to have accumulated more than $10,000 in unpaid tolls and penalties on Maryland roadways, the Maryland Transportation Authority said yesterday.

John Russell Bright III, 50, was also charged with driving with a suspended registration.

The motorist was caught up in the fourth of a series of Maryland Transportation Authority Police enforcement exercises aimed at cracking down on chronic toll violators who breeze through E-ZPass lanes without paying.

The authority's police force is using computerized imaging technology to recognize the license plates of such violators. The technology also is being used to spot stolen cars and unregistered vehicles, the agency said.

Bright's vehicle was recognized Wednesday at the Fort McHenry Tunnel, said authority spokeswoman Kelly McCleary. She said police confiscated his license but allowed him to have his vehicle towed at his own expense. He was not arrested, she said.

McCleary said the matter would be referred to the Motor Vehicle Administration. She said that violators are given 30 to 45 days to respond to a notification of the debt. If no payment is made, the matter would be referred to the state's Central Collections Unit.

"He can't do anything with his vehicle until he pays us or sets up a payment plan with CCU," McCleary said. "It's probably sitting in his driveway."

The spokesman said Bright did not have an E-ZPass account. Bright could not be reached for comment last night.

The transportation authority does not release such details as how many violations someone might have racked up or how long the behavior has been going on, McCleary said.

But according to information the authority provided to the General Assembly this year, the owner of a passenger vehicle can run up a maximum of $117 in tolls, fees, civil penalties and collection charges for a single violation. That means a person would have to have evaded tolls at least 86 times to reach $10,000.

McCleary said the authority defines a chronic toll violator as any Maryland motorist who accumulates more than three violations and $1,000 in tolls and fees. She said the authority has identified almost 40 chronic violators who owe more than $10,000.

The crackdown has led to enforcement actions against 20 violators who cumulatively owed more than $120,000, according to the authority.

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