Drivers who regularly avoid paying tolls on Maryland's roads, tunnels and bridges face a new challenge in the effort to beat the system: technology that captures their license plate numbers and alerts police to their violations.
The Maryland Transportation Authority announced this week that it has stepped up its enforcement of toll violations by implementing the new system - known as LPR, for License Plate Recognition.
The system is intended to crack down on chronic toll violators - such as drivers who use E-ZPass lanes without having the required transponders and accounts.
The LPR technology has been installed in Maryland Transportation Authority Police vehicles used by the department's electronic toll enforcement unit. The system recognizes license plates of vehicles whose registrations have been suspended because of previous toll violations and sends officers a signal.
According to the authority, the agency has nearly 300 suspended Maryland registrations recorded in its system.
"We have an obligation to the honest drivers and to our bondholders to collect the $3.4 million owed by chronic toll violators," Ronald L. Freeland, executive secretary of the authority, said in a statement.
Chronic violators are considered to be those with more than three Maryland toll violations and more than $1,000 in accrued tolls, penalties and fees.
According to the authority, motorists in Maryland avoid paying tolls 3,000 times on an average day. The place where the most violations occur is the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
The authority began its crackdown on toll violators in 2005. Since then, it has asked the Motor Vehicle Administration to suspend more than 1,000 vehicle registrations for toll-related offenses.