Cashless tolls have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many states like Massachusetts and New York have started to eliminate toll booths and replace them with electronic toll collection systems. They tote many benefits like reducing emissions and fatalities while saving drivers time. But, the switch can also come with a few drawbacks.
To help you decide if going toll tags are worth it, here’s an overview of the pros and cons along with our verdict.
What Are Toll Tags?
Toll tags are small, wireless devices you mount on your windshield or license plate so you can pay tolls through electronic toll collection systems on highways. You don’t need a toll tag to travel in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are free for commuters with two or more people in the car. But if you use toll lanes and roads, you may want to think about getting a toll tag to make paying fares faster and more convenient.
Pros of Toll Tags
Toll tags come with many advantages, including the following.
One of the main benefits of toll tags is that they save you time. Instead of waiting in long lines to pay cash, you’ll be able to pass through toll plazas without stopping. Then, you take care of your bills online. With everyone doing so, it prevents traffic backups.
Nearly half of the country’s highways and bridges have switched to cashless tolling. Although many of these electronic systems can bill you by mail if you don’t have a toll tag, they’ll often charge you a higher fare to do so. The North Texas Tollway Authority, for example, charges drivers without toll tags 50% more — so you could save a lot of money in the long run by getting a transponder.
Electronic toll collection also helps improve highway safety. Because drivers don’t have to search for cash or change to pay tolls, they may be less distracted. Drivers with toll tags are also less likely to switch lanes to avoid long lines at toll plazas, which can reduce accidents.
Research has confirmed that roads with cashless tolls are typically safer. A study by the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association found that fewer fatalities occur on toll roads than ordinary highways. And, even fewer deaths were recorded on toll roads equipped with safety features like barriers at interchanges and electronic toll collection systems.
According to the US Department of Energy, vehicle idling generates 30 million tons of carbon emissions every year. If you use toll tags, you won’t have to idle at toll stations, which will shrink your carbon footprint.
Cons of Toll Tags
Now for a look at the drawbacks.
Toll tags could potentially be used to track your movement, which has raised privacy concerns. Several state governments have been using the data from toll tags for other purposes like conducting traffic studies and catching criminals. Some advocacy organizations are worried about how this data is being stored and the potential for misuse.
Surprise Charges and Billing Errors
When you pay in cash, it’s easy to track your toll costs because you can see how much money is leaving your wallet. Electronic tolling systems charge you automatically, which can make it harder to determine how much you’re spending, leading to surprise bills. This is especially true in areas where fares change throughout the day based on traffic patterns.
Another potential issue is billing errors. Sometimes toll collection systems misread license plates and send incorrect invoices to drivers. Trying to get your money back when you’ve been overcharged can be a hassle.
Some states charge a fee when you open an account and request a toll tag. You may also get charged for a replacement if you lose or damage your transponder.
No Interaction with Toll Collectors
Lastly, toll collectors do much more than collect cash. They give drivers directions, important traffic updates, and helpful tips about where to stay and eat in the local area. They also watch out for intoxicated motorists and report them to the authorities, which helps make highways safer. When toll collectors are replaced by electronic systems, drivers miss out on their advice and customer service.
The Verdict: Are Toll Tags Worth It?
Although toll tags have caused some billing errors and raised privacy concerns, the benefits do seem to outweigh the drawbacks. Transponders can reduce your carbon footprint and save you time during your commute. They also help make roads safer and reduce distractions while driving.
Another step you can take to become a better, safer driver is enrolling in our defensive driving course. It teaches you important skills and strategies that can help you avoid road hazards and accidents. Plus, it can help you save on your car insurance.