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Thousands of E-ZPass users clocked, but not ticketed, for speeding through Maryland tolls

Thousands of E-ZPass users have been clocked speeding through Maryland toll facilities in recent years, prompting warnings — but not repercussions — from the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The agency began recording the speed of E-ZPass drivers in 2002, though there are no signs at toll facilities indicating that speeds are being monitored. Drivers are informed in the terms and conditions of their E-ZPass contracts.

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Maryland law empowers the MdTA to revoke a driver's E-ZPass transponder for 60 days after a second speeding violation within a six-month period — and such suspensions used to occur. In the first half of 2005, for instance, 100 customers received a two-month suspension, according to officials at the time.

However, the MdTA's current policy is to mail warnings — at a cost of about $1 each — to users who have been caught speeding but not to revoke passes, said MdTA spokeswoman Rebecca Freeberger.

"The goal is to not to inconvenience or be punitive to the customer, yet to be sure drivers are mindful of the posted and safe speeds for traveling through a toll plaza," Freeberger said in an email.

Freeberger said she did not know when the change first went into effect, but no users' passes have been revoked in the past five years. She also said it does not mean the MdTA won't resume revoking speeders' E-ZPass privileges in the future.

The speeds of E-ZPass users are only clocked at traditional toll plazas, not on electronic toll roads such as the Intercounty Connector in the Washington suburbs or the new Interstate 95 express toll lanes north of Baltimore, she said.

Speeders represent a tiny percentage of E-ZPass users. There were 23,454 violations in Maryland in 2014, representing less than half of 1 percent of the nearly 56 million E-ZPass transactions, the MdTA said.

Of those violations, 20,278, or about 86 percent, were first-time violations.

"Drivers generally will correct their behavior," Freeberger said.

But not all do. Of the 2014 violations, 2,416, or about 10 percent, were for a second violation within six months; and 760, or about 3 percent, were for a third violation within six months of the second.

Between 2010 and 2014, there were a total of 105,590 violations, and the MdTA sent out 103,180 warnings.

Most violations occurred at the Fort McHenry Tunnel and the Key Bridge. At the bridge — where 62,114 of the violations occurred — the speed limit for the free-flow E-ZPass lanes is 30 mph. Violators are sent a warning if their speed is clocked at 45 mph or higher.

The MdTA said the degree to which drivers must exceed posted speed limits at other toll facilities in order to receive a warning varies, but they would not disclose the speeds for "the safety of our motorists and our toll collectors."

AAA Mid-Atlantic supports technologies that increase road safety, said spokeswoman Ragina Cooper Averella but also has been outspoken about the need for motorist data collectors like E-ZPass to be transparent with customers.

Of the toll speed data collection, Averella said, AAA encourages the MdTA to find other means, possibly in E-ZPass statements, to notify motorists that their speed might be monitored when traveling through toll facilities.

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—Kevin Rector

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