Motorists Abuse Oklahoma's Toll Booths

Wednesday, December 31st 2008, 11:39 am
By: News On 6

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Motorists fill toll machines on Oklahoma turnpikes with a lot more than coins -- officials say dirty diapers, soda bottles and pennies that jam the machines frequently are found in the change baskets.

Hardly a day passes when motorists don't jam the unattended machines instead of paying the correct toll, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority says. Damp, cold weather also can cause the machines to malfunction, especially when ice or rain get into them, he said.

"People vandalize the machines every single day," said Oklahoma Turnpike Authority spokesman Jack Damrill. "If you name it, they've thrown it in there. A lot of people put in pennies thinking they're going to get away with something, and what they're doing is they're jamming the machine."

The Turnpike Authority electronically monitors the coin machines, and it can be determined when motorists don't pay the required tolls, he said. Malfunctioning machines send off a signal, and the contractor hired by the Turnpike Authority is required to repair them.

"It happens quite a bit," Damrill said.

When the authority notices an increase in nonweather-related underpayments at unattended toll gates, it asks Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers to set up operations to catch motorists who drive off without paying the correct toll, he said.

Cameras at some locations allow the authority to catch motorists on video who don't pay the correct tolls, Damrill said.

Damaged automatic coin machines malfunction by not recording the correct amount of change, often requiring motorists to put in additional money before registering the toll as paid, Damrill said.

Linda Hagan of Mustang said on at least three occasions recently, she paid the required toll at an unattended exit, but the light stayed red. When she threw in another coin, the light turned green.

"Quarters add up," Hagan said.