Thursday, September 24, 2009

"It's not only the driver that's unaware of it, it's also the Toll Road Authority that isn't taking responsibility and doing their job."

License plate mix-up led to high bills


By Erik Barajas
KTRK-TV (Houston, TX)
Copyright 2009

HOUSTON -- A local woman says an annoying mix-up is now over. She repeatedly received a bill from the Harris County Toll Road Authority, but the problem is that the violations were not hers.

When we starting making phone calls, the issue was resolved and we also uncovered a flaw in the county's computer system.

Cars fly through the Ez Tag lane, with most adding $1.50 to their bill. But some rack up a bill that is sent to the wrong person, like this woman who wishes to keep her identity private.

For the last year and three months, she has received a violation letter on an out-of-state license plate from Iowa that is identical to her Texas license plate.

"The first thing they said is, 'Mam, are you the owner of a Honda CRV?' And I said, 'No, I drive a white Corolla," said the woman.

So why did she get a bill for violations on an out-of-state car with the same license plate number?

Despite all the high-tech cameras and computers systems used on the toll road, the software cannot tell the difference between Texas license plates and other states.

"They said it's a machine that is reading the plate and it can't differentiate different states," the woman said.

Even though she called to resolve the first mistake back in June 2008 and changing her license plate, she's received two more violation notices and bills.

"It's very frustrating because I feel I'm being held responsible for someone else's mistakes," said the woman. "It's not only the driver that's unaware of it, it's also the Toll Road Authority that isn't taking responsibility and doing their job.

"Due to technology and human error, we did get a mix-up," said Lawanda Howse of the HCTRA.

Once Eyewitness News got involved the Toll Road Authority easily straightened out the mix-up, but they do admit on a busy day about 70,000 license plates are reviewed and they are right about 98 percent of the time.

"We say maybe out of that 70,000, you may get a 2 percent error," said Howse.

When you do the math, that two percent error rate comes out to about 1,400 people possibly receiving wrong violation notices. The Toll Road Authority told us right now they have no plans to update the system in order for it to differentiate between state's license plates.

In the meantime, our victim says she is glad her account is cleared, but still worries she will receive another notice.

© 2009 KTRK-TV:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE