$60M in Turnpike tolls uncollected last year
Worst violator owes $25,415.75
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Turnpike records more than 2 million transactions every day, and most drivers pay the tolls when they travel.
But News 6 found more than $60 million went uncollected last year, mostly from drivers not paying tolls.
In fiscal year 2013, $35.4 million went uncollected. In fiscal year 2016, it ballooned to $60.4 million.
There are several reasons why the tolls may go uncollected. One reason, according to law enforcement officials, is habitual toll cheats who constantly drive on the Turnpike and don't pay the tollsl.
That's upsetting to those drivers who do pay.
"I think they should be responsible and just pay the toll, because we all have to be responsible and pay what we have to," said a driver.
"That is frustrating because, I mean, it's not a lot, I think the prices are fair and it does keep the roads maintained," said Mark Vazquez, another driver.
The uncollected $60 million is enough money to repave between 25 and 30 miles of the turnpike. That's about the distance from Kissimmee to Oakland.
Turnpike officials said growth in the Turnpike's revenue, due to growth in traffic during the past few years, has "significantly outpaced the increase in violations."
They also said there could be several reasons why some money won't be collected -- for instance, if they "are a toll by plate customer and for whatever reason they didn’t get their mail, and it took a while for a bill to find them," said Chad Huff, the Turnpike's public information manager.
The Turnpike is always trying to recoup the uncollected money.
In state and out-of-state drivers who do not pay their tolls are essentially treated the same way with one exception.
After a driver fails to respond to at least two invoices detailing the amount owed for tolls, the account is turned over to collections or has a registration stop placed upon the vehicle -- but the registration stop may only be placed on vehicles registered in the state of Florida.
This stop will not allow them to renew their vehicle registration without first resolving their unpaid toll balance owed to Florida’s Turnpike.
Since December 2015, the Turnpike implemented the vehicle registration stop program, which prevents a plate-holder from renewing their Florida plate until the outstanding amount owed is paid. Since then, 111,000 vehicle registrations have been stopped due to unpaid tolls.
While some state turnpikes work together to place registration stops on out of state drivers who evade tolls, Florida currently cannot stop the registrations of out of state drivers.
News 6 obtained a list of the top 10 toll violators, who collectively owe the Turnpike nearly $170,000.
308xxxxx – (unknown) : $25,415.75
261xxxxx – (individual account): $18,833.96
126xxxxx – (individual account) : $18,673.63
498xxxx– (individual account) : $18,149.75
309xxxx– (unknown) $16,214.45
215xxxx – (individual account) : $15,717.71
213xxxx – (individual account) : $14,508.64
299xxxxx – (commercial account) : $14,358.26
214xxxxx – (commercial account) : $14,072.86
184xxxxx– (unknown) : $13,285.95
Turnpike officials could not give the names of the top 10 toll dodgers because of privacy laws.
The Florida Highway Patrol said it will go after some of the most egregious toll cheats.
"Unfortunately we are seeing certain drivers with an extreme high toll violation rate that they have and that owe back to the state," said Trooper Steven Montiero, a Community Safety Officer with the FHP. "No matter where you're going on the interstate, there are cameras, we're watching."
First, they identify the driver, then they monitor where he or she is going.
"We at FHP begin to build a pattern on that driver. When are they going through the toll? How often do they go through that toll? And, therefore, we'll sit and we'll wait for you," Montiero said.
When FHP does pull over a toll violator, the trooper takes their license plate and then issues a mandatory court date.
"Getting this one driver is returning to the state thousands of dollars," he said.
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