Woman frustrated over erroneous Fastrak violations

December 24, 2009 7:43:45 PM PST
If you have a license plate with letters like E, F and T, you may be mistaken for a toll violator. How is that possible?

Cindy O'Hare's husband Richard usually leaves his prized Corvette in the garage during the day. So Cindy was puzzled when this notice came in the mail.

Fastrak said Richard whizzed through the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza one morning without paying the toll.

"Immediate reaction was he's out having an affair, and he's over in San Francisco for the day having a good time," said Cindy.

But then the O'Hares received many other violation notices.

Each one showed a snapshot of the license plate taken by Fastrak's toll-booth-mounted cameras, as the car blew through the Golden Gate Bridge toll gate.

"The violations continued to mount and continued to mount," said Cindy.

Cindy knew this wasn't right, so she looked closer and sure enough, there was a big mistake.

The hood of the vehicle was different than any of our vehicles," she said. "The license plate was the same except for that one letter."

Richard's license plate is identical to the one in the snapshot except for the middle letter.

On his license plate, it's an "F," in the snapshot it's actually an "E" that just "looks" like an "F" so Cindy called Fastrak and pointed this out.

"And they would say oh don't worry about it, it's resolved," said Cindy.

But it wasn't. Violations kept coming in the mail, each one charging $6 for the toll crossing, plus a $25 penalty.

Fastrak kept saying it would resolve the problem but nothing happened.

"I'm sure we've had at least 20 or more violations," said Cindy. "Finally after calling and getting a different explanation all those times I decided I'd check with 7 on your side."

We contacted Fastrak and it looked into the O'hare's problem. It turns out, the driver with the "E" in his license plate was a Fastrak customer but he didn't realize his transponder was faulty.

Fastrak replaced the toll tag and that stopped the violations and they also said misreadings can happen especially when a license plate frame blocks the letters.

"This happens with some frequency and one of the most common errors that's made is the confusion between e and f on the plate. Most often it's the result of a license plate frame that rises a little high on the plate," said John Goodwin from Fastrak.

As you might imagine, letters "I," "T," and "L" can also be mistaken for each other too.

"It was frustrating in the beginning and then after 7 On Your Side got involved in thought it's going to be resolved one way or the other," said Cindy. "So far, so good!"

Fastrak told 7 On Your Side this kind of mistake doesn't happen very often. But the Golden Gate Bridge District is working with the company that makes the toll-violation cameras, in an effort to improve their accuracy.

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