Electronic license plate reader sends fines to wrong person

Posted by Mike Luttrell

An electronic license plate reader designed to automatically send fines to people who skip through toll roads without paying, apparently can't tell the difference between an 8 and a 0.

Heather Perry was pretty surprised when she found out that a traffic violation had been sent to her house in Illinois. After all, she was living in South Korea at the time, and the license plate printed on the violation was actually sitting on a car in a warehouse in California.

It turned out that there was a tollway camera in Illinois that wasn't quite up to snuff. It caught the license plate of a driver who sped through without paying, and misread an "8" as a "0." Not once, but three times. That mistake caused multiple fines totaling $63 to be sent to Perry instead of the real culprit. Perry's mother sent the letter to her daughter who was in Korea at the time.

Because she was out of the country, Perry just paid the fine because there was no easy way to fight it and she was worried of the fine escalating. After the fact, though, her mom called the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and complained. The agency agreed that there was a mistake and promised to refund the fine.

A year later, though, there was no refund. And then all of the sudden, something all to familiar happened to the Perry family - they received a letter saying that Heather owed $63 for unpaid tolls.

"It's the same car, the same license plate, the same exits as the car that did this in 2009. It's very, very crazy," said Phyllis Perry in a Chicago Tribune article.

The Tribune went to the toll authority on her behalf and finally got them to resolve the matter but it was certainly a hassle for someone who didn't do anything wrong. This is the problem that exists when something as important as traffic violations are put through a completely automated process with no manual oversight.

Image credit: ChicagoNow.com