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Toll Camera Error Leads to Collection Notice Sent to Wrong Driver

A collection agency was seeking $80 in unpaid fines and fees, after a system misread the license plate and the toll company sent bills to the wrong driver.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Richard and Stephanie Wells think fondly of the time they spent in Greensboro. The family lived in the Gate City for about six years starting in 2005, “We liked it there, it was a great place,” said Stephanie Wells.

The Wells moved to Florida eight years ago and yet a letter they received a few months ago was connected to their time in North Carolina. The letter was a collection notice for an unpaid toll in Virginia, “We were no where near Virginia at the time of the ticket,” said Wells.

According to the notice a car with the plate number ACJ-3329 was photographed going through the toll tunnel and the fine was never paid. The initial toll and fees raised the amount of the fine to more than $80, “It is definitely concerning that this is happening,” said Wells.

The family did own a car with the license plate ACJ-3329 when they lived in North Carolina, but they turned it in to DMV when they moved. Stephanie Well’s first thought was that someone else was given the plate and they were the ones photographed going through the tunnel in Virginia.

After contacted our Call 4 Action Team our volunteers contacted NCDOT to find out how this could happen. A spokesperson told us that it does not redistribute plates but that addresses connected to the plate is stored in the system.

We then reached out to Elizabeth River Tunnels to find out what happened and if this was a simple mistake. The company did some checking and eventually acknowledged the photo recognition system made a mistake. The company declined to say what the mistake was only that it happened, and the collection issue was being cleared up.

News 2 asked for a picture of the license plate that was snapped by the camera, but Elizabeth River Tunnels declined our request citing a privacy concern. The company did however send a photo to the Wells. The “mistake” the system made is that the license plate that went through the tunnel in Virginia was from Wisconsin not North Carolina, “I don’t see how this happened,” said Wells. “You clearly see it says Wisconsin.”

The other confusing issue dealt with why the Wells received a collection notice for $80 but never a notice about the initial fine. Turns out Elizabeth River Tunnels uses an outside agency to access addresses and was sending the fines to the old North Carolina address, “Had they contacted us (NCDOT) we would have alerted them that the plate was inactive,” said Steve Abbott with NCDOT.

North Carolina does store addresses of all drivers past and present but according to Abbott ERT never called to obtain an address for the Wells family. We reached out to ERT and a spokesperson did confirm it uses a 3rd party agency to access addresses.

More than 100,000 vehicles travel through the Elizabeth River Tunnels each day and for safety and congestion reasons overhead photo gantries are taken. Most are E-ZPass customers but those that aren’t get sent a bill.

ERT has corrected the issue and the Wells will no longer have to pay the $80 in fines and fees. They agency has also apologized for the mistake.

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