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Maryland Considers Relief From Excessive Toll Road Fines
Maryland Senate passes measure giving state agency more flexibility to deal with inadvertent toll road violations.

Roger Manno
The Maryland House Transportation Committee on Thursday will consider offering relief to motorists hit with thousands of dollars in toll road fines. The proposal, which passed the state Senate unanimously earlier this month, would give the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) the power to forgive tolling debts over $300 if they are accrued in a 30-day period under extenuating circumstances.

Currently, motorists who use an E-ZPass toll transponder could unknowingly rack up thousands in penalties if, for instance, the credit card associated with the toll transponder expires or the initial fine notice is sent to the wrong address. Many find fighting the massive fines to be an uphill battle, since Maryland law says motorists either have to pay up immediately or go to court. In neighboring Virginia, the legislature last year capped the amount of tolling fines to $2200.

The proposal introduced by state Senator Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County) would offer the prospect of a fine reduction for the 10,725 motorists on whom the state has collectively imposed $6.3 million in tolling penalties.

"This bill deals with the persistent, pernicious practice of folks who are caught in this toll penalty dragnet," Manno explained in a committee hearing last month. "When we authorized this video toll legislation many years ago, we couldn't imagine that folks would be going into toll bankruptcies."

To make the point, Manno brought a number of individuals to testify about how the existing tolling fine scheme ruined their lives. Danielle Holden, a single mom, was hit with a $14,000 toll bill from the state.

"I never received correspondence prior to that," Holden testified. "I was told I could make a downpayment in the amount of $9000 on a five-year payment plan thereafter. I was astonished that it was in collections, and I had not received a bill prior to that, and my E-ZPass account showed no delinquency... I was told I could do nothing because it was in collections."

Holden had no choice but to file for bankruptcy last year. Other motorists described how the state seized their tax refunds and suspended their driver's license for failure to immediately pay.

A copy of the legislation is available in a 120k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 973 (Maryland General Assembly, 3/25/2018)

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