Toll road tickets up significantly thanks to new technology

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The Harris County Toll Road Authority has given out nearly triple the amount of toll road violations to drivers so far this year as it did in all of 2015.

The bump is attributed to a new system that notifies law enforcement working on tollways that a driver, who has repeatedly not paid tolls, just went through a toll road plaza nearby, according to Captain Terry Thurman, Harris County Toll Road Authority’s Incident Management.

“The alerts come within a second,” Thurman said. “Before this new instant alert system, they worked off a sheet of paper.”

The alerts come across law enforcement officers’ computers within seconds and show a photo of the vehicle taken as it drove through the toll plaza or EZ tag reader.

The new computer technology was put into place just after the beginning of the near.

Since the new system started, 28,898 tickets have been given out.

In all of last year, the Harris County Toll Road Authority wrote 10,432 tickets.

The amount of money drivers owed varies, but for the system to flag a driver the amount of violations needs is more than just a few dollars.

“This morning there was one for $5,088,” said Thurman.

The system isn’t perfect, as Jim Denys from northwest Harris County found out.

“I was being pulled over. It looked like a Christmas tree behind me,” said Denys, a frequent toll road user.

Because it uses a computer to recognize your license plate, it makes mistakes.

Denys was told he owed more than a thousand dollars when he was mistakenly pulled over. The computer read his license plate incorrectly and flagged him as a repeat violator.

“They told me I was banned from using the toll road and if I did and I was caught I would be subject to arrest and my car impounded,” he said. “It was all a mistake.”

After Jim Denys called Channel 2, the toll road wiped away his ticket.

The toll road law enforcement officers say stopping people who don’t pay benefits keeps the road fair for those who do.

If you realize you drove a tollway accidentally or drove in the wrong lane you can admit to it online and pay fee that’s under $2.

Visit the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s newly redesigned website to pay for such a ticket. You need to do it before you get a violation notice.

It doesn’t work for people who repeatedly drive without paying.

A link to the website is here.

If you have a tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email or text him at 832-493-3951 or

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2