6/30/2008Illinois Toll Road Overbills Wisconsin Drivers
Illinois Tollway falsely accuses thousands of Wisconsin motorists of cheating.
Illinois toll roads falsely accused thousands of Wisconsin drivers of skipping out on tolls. The Illinois Tollway admitted to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that its I-Pass electronic toll transponder system had a problem recently repaired. This problem was responsible for generating a significant number of the 133,000 violation notices, imposing fines of up to $1000 on Wisconsin residents, mailed since May.
The tollway's cheat detection system system photographs every driver who passes through a toll booth or I-Pass lane. A computer program then runs each photographed license plate against a database of transponder accounts if automated payment is not completed for any reason. The system is designed to automatically bill the credit card of valid account holders. But when the program looked up transponder information from Wisconsin drivers, the system became confused by records using the term "autos" in a field that Illinois refers to as "passenger vehicles." As a result, the program assumed everyone from Wisconsin with a valid I-Pass account was a cheat.
"These crazy computers," Illinois Tollway spokesman Joelle McGinnis told the Journal Sentinel. "You tell them to look for X and they look for X."
Because the system only generates fines after three violations within two years, some motorists received tickets for alleged offenses that took place in 2006. Drivers struggling to remember what happened were met with endless busy signals when attempting to resolve the matter. Those who did have their fines canceled were still charged the higher cash rate for their tolls, instead of the proper I-Pass electronic rate.