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Computer and human error leading to wrong fines on toll road

HILTON HEAD ISLAND (AP) (--) Computer problems and human error are the reasons some residents here are being wrongly fined for ignoring tolls on the Cross Island Parkway, said the Transportation Department's safety director. But Terecia Wilson said Monday motorists may not have the Palmetto Pass, which lowers the toll from $1 to 50 cents, mounted properly on their vehicle. She also said they may have other passes on their car and the photo-monitoring system may have misread other passes.

The state started fining drivers July 10 after more than a year's delay to upgrade computer software that processes the fines.

The photo-monitoring system is triggered by an unpaid toll and captures four images of the violator's license plate.

Wilson said it was possible workers copied down wrong license plate numbers or wrote down incorrect plate numbers when matching them to state Division of Motor Vehicles driver information.

"We're human," Wilson said. "We make mistakes just like anyone else."

Wilson said it was possible there were problems with the new computer software, saying "no system is error-free."

The state has been waiving fees for drivers who said they were wrongly fined. But some motorists say they can't get through a hot line set up to handle questions.

Wilson said the hot line answering machine incorrectly said when calls would be answered and the state is looking into changing the message, she said.

The Transportation Department, which also operates a Greenville toll road, is trying to return messages within 48 hours, Wilson said.

The Transportation Department set up an e-mail address Monday to help drivers with questions or comments.

The tolls are used to pay $45 million in bonds and an additional $38 million in interest-free state and federal loans used to build the parkway.

-- Carl Jenkins (, July 25, 2001

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