Toll tickets penalize more than turnpike use

Jan. 20—A state legislator is hoping to change during this session a motor vehicle registration law that allows Service Oklahoma to deny citizens seeking to renew vehicle registrations to do so if they owe toll money to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

Service Oklahoma is a new state agency that oversees and partners with all tag agencies and motor vehicle licensing sites across the state. Right now, tag agent staffs have to deny customers who have unpaid tolls, but they cannot collect those fees.

State Rep. Annie Menz, D-Norman, has filed House Bill 2968 for consideration this legislative session, and if enacted, this bill would remove the ability of SOK to deny renewal vehicle registration for unpaid tolls.

Oklahoma is home to around 630 miles of toll roads. With the installation of PlatePay systems on nearly all state toll roads, any driver can now pass through on-and-off gates without stopping. Cameras capture the vehicle plates and issue an invoice, which is mailed to the vehicle registrant's address. Drivers have the option to pay online or through the mail. The PlatePay option is more costly than the prepaid PikePass system.

In a House news statement, Menz said her office has received feedback from constituents about this issue, and while she appreciates Service Oklahoma, it is time to make this adjustment.

"Imagine taking off work to stand in line at the tag agency to renew your vehicle registration, only to be told you can't because you owe money to OTA for tolls. Many people don't have to imagine that; they've experienced it," said Menz. "Because of this statute, tag agents have to send paying customers out of their doors because they can't collect tolls, and they aren't allowed to provide services to someone who owes maybe two dollars to OTA. At that point, a person has missed work for nothing and is now driving around without proper documentation."

She believes if these kinds of roadblocks stand, they incentivize people to continue driving without up-to-date registration.

"Lawful drivers mean safer roads, and getting to work safely means being able to pay bills. This legislation is a commonsense adjustment for working families. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this effort," said Menz.

HB 2968 will be heard after the legislative session commences on Monday, Feb. 5.