Press Club

Legal Review: Not Many Cheaters Out There — New I-66 Toll

By Alexandria criminal defense attorney Thomas Soldan with Price Benowitz, LLP.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), few drivers cheat the toll fares while driving inside the Capital Beltway on Interstate 66.

On December 4 the interstate expanded the HOV — or High Occupancy Vehicles, requiring two people in the car to avoid a toll – restrictions on the road by increasing HOV hours and adding tolls solo drivers must pay during rush hours.

The toll changes according to how much traffic there is — that fare can range from $5-$40; the goal of the tolls is to keep traffic moving as quickly as possible. The new toll rules have increased driving speeds during the morning commute, but conversely has had little effect on travel times during the afternoon commute.

Since then, only 171 drivers have been caught cheating by using the lanes when they were not supposed to, and not paying the required toll. This equals only .0007 percent of all trips taken on the Interstate between December 4, 2017 and March 30 of this year.

VDOT estimates that before the toll was put into place at least half of the drivers on the road were cheating and misusing the HOV lane.

Now that all drivers on the road are required to have an E-ZPass, all solo drivers either pay or are billed for the toll (plus penalties unless they pay online), so the number of cheaters is drastically reduced compared to before. Now, VDOT says that 12 percent of the drivers did not have an E-ZPass.

To use the HOV lane, in addition to having two people in the car during the expanded hours (5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the direction of Ballston and Rosslyn/ 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the direction of the Beltway), drivers must also have an E-ZPass Flex transponder in HOV mode to ride free.

The only way for a driver to cheat the system now is to switch their E-ZPass Flex to HOV mode while driving solo, but it is in one’s best interest to obey the restrictions.

“Virginia is vigilant about prosecuting traffic violations to protect public safety, including using the HOV lanes according to traffic laws” said Thomas Soldan, a Virginia traffic lawyer at the law firm Price Benowitz, LLP. “Penalties for cheating include fines that double per repeated offense which can lead to suspension or even revocation of your license. In extreme cases it can include jail time.”

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