A new Rhode Island law cracks down on Newport Bridge toll evaders, lowering the ceiling for consequences such as fines, license suspension and more. Governor Gina Raimondo officially signed the bill into law, which was sponsored by East Bay lawmakers Senator John Edwards and Representative Louis DiPalma.
The law redefines the definitions of “toll evaders” and “toll violators,” lowering the number of infractions before there are consequences. Under the new definintion, a person is a “toll violator” after 10 infractions rather than 20, and a “toll evader” after 20 infractions, instead of the previous 100.
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“When drivers rack up that many toll violations, it becomes unfair to everyone else who diligently pays the tolls every time they go over a tolled bridge,” Representative Edwards, a Democrat from representing much of Aquidneck Island, said. “It unfairly shifts the financial burden of maintaining those bridges to other users. And we owe it to taxpayers to see that those projects are funded in a fair and equitable manner.”
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The Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles keeps a record of toll violators, and anyone on the list cannot renew his or her license until all fines have been paid to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.
Toll evaders, meanwhile, can be summoned to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and may face license suspension for up to six months and a fine of up to $600.
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“When you have electronic tolling, such as E-Z Pass, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have toll violators,” Senator DiPalma said. “For those few who don’t take the bridge tolls seriously, this legislation will give us a way to get their attention, and let them know that they’re going to be expected to pay the same as everyone else.”
The bill was approved by both chambers of the General Assembly in late June.