CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The toll lanes can be a life saver just to pay a few extra dollars to get around heavy traffic, but what if you don't actually pay the few extra dollars.
The Interstate 77 Express lanes are one of three toll roads in the state. The lanes from Hambright Road to Mooresville have been open for almost five months.
Signs clearly mark how much the trip will cost and about 65 percent of drivers use an NC Quick Pass Transponder to pay, but for those who don't cameras capture the license plate and the state mails a bill to the vehicle's registered owner.
"As soon as I get that bill, it is one of the first things on the top of my list," driver Nicole Davis said.
NCDOT said from June 2018 to July 2019, there have been 70 million transactions on the state's three toll projects: the Triange Expressway, the Monroe Expressway and the I-77 Express lanes.
Channel 9's Allison Latos learned 16 percent, or 11.2 million transactions, have not been paid on time and there are consequences.
If the first invoice is not paid within 30 days, a second invoice tacks on a $6 processing fee. If unpaid within 60 days, a third invoice charges the $6 fee plus a $25 civil penalty.
After 90 days, the unpaid toll bill goes to collections and a driver will face a DMV registration hold making it impossible to renew until they pay up.
"If you're going to use the easy fast lanes, then be prepared to pay it or face the consequence," Driver Jennifer Moretz said.
Those civil penalties go into a fund that supports education across the state.
There is a way to use the tolls for free -- if you are carpooling, you can flip your transponder to "HOV On" before you enter the toll lanes or you can download the Quick Pass HOV App and get a sticker for your car, but you have to alert the app 15 minutes before you enter the tolls or you will be charged.
Troopers said they are going to start cracking down on people abusing the HOV lanes.
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