Concerns surrounding deteriorating license plates and cashless tolling

New York News

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Many New York State license plates are noticeably peeling and tattered. With cashless tolling set to begin next month, NEWS10 ABC followed up on some of your questions regarding how the cameras will be able to capture those deteriorating plates and appropriately bill the driver. 

When cashless tolling officially rolls out in November, drivers will no longer stop to pay a toll. Instead, vehicles will travel under an overhead gantry. The system now relies on sensors and cameras to either detect your E-ZPass or, if you don’t have one, the camera will snap a picture of your license plate and a bill will be sent in the mail. However, a large number of New York State license plates are bubbling and peeling, and in some cases, the lamination has completely fallen off.

“They’re in pretty bad shape,” said Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola.

Merola told NEWS10 there are people going to the DMV in Troy all the time to swap out their plates, particularly the yellow plates in the “F” series. In fact, Jonathan Downer, of Valley Falls, was there on Friday doing just that.

“They just came out with these plates not too long ago so they shouldn’t be disintegrating so fast,” said Downer.

He was happy, however, to learn that if your plate is peeling, the exchange is free. But if you prefer to keep your old plate number, then it’s $20. Merola said under state law (NY CLS Veh & Tr § 402), the onus is on the driver to make sure their plates are easily readable, otherwise, they can be ticketed and fined.

“If you’ve got a bad set of plates, take them off, bring them into a DMV, you get a brand new set of plates. It doesn’t cost you anything other than a few minutes of your time,” said Merola.

What about the drivers who fail to replace their plates? Will the toll cameras be able to accurately capture those tattered plates and appropriately bill the owner of the vehicle? What about drivers who purposely try to obstruct their plates to evade tolls?

According to the State Thruway Authority, the cashless tolling system has a number of redundancies built in for vehicles without E-ZPass. They use sophisticated equipment to take several high definition pictures of the front and rear license plates. They added that, if needed, images can be further analyzed and enhanced to view the license plate and determine vehicle identification. 

A spokesperson for the Thruway Authority released the following statement:

“Beyond the fact that New York state law requires motorists to have easily readable plates, it would be naïve of motorists to think that they can bypass the Thruway’s cashless tolling system with a peeling license plate.  Motorists should be fully aware of their responsibility to have clean and visible plates, and the New York State Police will enforce these vehicle traffic laws.”

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