Toll scanners have only one purpose

The in basket: Richard Gonzales e-mailed to say,”As a professional driver for a skilled nursing facility in Bremerton, I obviously spend a lot of time on the road. I’ve noticed, on a typical day, I will see around eight Washington State licensed vehicles without their front plates mounted.

“Mind you, this is only the vehicles I see and I can only see the plates on vehicles in the opposing traffic lane. What is the fine for missing front plates in Washington State?”

He then went on to say, “I was wondering why we couldn’t use our electronic tolling facilities to verify correctly mounted vehicle license plates? After all, those cameras photograph both the front and rear plates for the scofflaws that cross the Narrows Bridge without paying the toll.

“Why couldn’t a law enforcement officer issue citations for the vehicle owners of non-compliant vehicles? While it wouldn’t close the state’s budget shortfall, every little bit helps.”

The out basket: I, too, am surprised at the number of vehicles without front plates. I’ve said before that if I’m on a two-lane highway and start counting oncoming cars, I’ll see one without a front plate before I reach 40.

Yet police say the front plates help them do their job. I don’t know how those who don’t have them get away with it. The fine for that infraction is $124.

Anyway, I knew his suggestion for using the toll scanners to record them was a non-starter. There would be a tremendous uproar from civil liberty advocates were it to be tried, and there is a law against it.

Annie Johnson of the Good to Go! toll office for the state says, “State law is very specific about how we can use the images taken by the tolling equipment. RCW 46.63.160 is the law that covers photo tolling and it states:

“No photograph, digital photograph, microphotograph, videotape, other recorded image, or other record identifying a specific instance of travel may be used for any purpose other than toll collection or enforcement of civil penalties under this section. Records identifying a specific instance of travel by a specific person or vehicle must be retained only as required to ensure payment and enforcement of tolls and to comply with state records retention policies.”

“To summarize,” Annie said, “we can only use the images we capture with the toll equipment to collect tolls or enforcement of civil penalties for not paying the toll.  We can’t even share them with law enforcement without a court order. Any changes to the law to allow what your reader suggests would have to be made by the Legislature.”

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