Toll Troubles: Ellington Driver Charged on Highways He Never Traveled On

After the former police detective spent countless hours disputing bills, NBC CT Responds helped him find a solution.

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Connecticut has resisted having tolls, but take a ride out of state and we’re paying the fees.

So, put yourself in the driver seat of an Ellington driver who keeps getting charged for tolls that he isn’t going through.

“I’ve got bills from New Hampshire. I’ve got bills from Massachusetts. I’ve got bills from New York,” said Don Skewes.

The longtime police detective, who investigated criminal cases for more than two decades, reached out to NBC CT Responds for help when he just couldn’t get a fix.

“I was very understanding in the beginning, but my patience is starting to go thin, continuing to get bills,” sad Skewes.

In honor of his service, Skewes’ wife gifted him a police memorial vanity license plate. But it’s this thoughtful gift that has been causing him grief.

“Unfortunately, I may have to turn the plate in because I can’t continue getting these bills and wasting hours of my time and money sending out appeals every week,” said Skewes.

Skewes is getting charged for a plate that is not his. We’re not showing his plate for privacy reasons, but Skewes truck is red.


The truck captured by the toll camera is white.

Skewes has a “Never Forget” emblem on the left side. The white truck does not.

The white truck appears to have red characters, but Skewes are blue.

“It’s definitely close by a plate reader, I can see why a mistake was made, but I can’t understand why they can’t somehow block it as this point,” said Skewes.

Skewes was hoping someone at a tolling agency could block the bills he shouldn’t be getting, but the bills kept on coming.

“I’ve probably talked to 70 different people in the different states,” he said.

NBC Responds units around the country have received 483 complaints related to toll roads since 2017, most of them for payment issues with E-Z Pass systems along the East Coast.

NBC CT Responds has discovered why it can be so difficult to get a solution for drivers like Skewes.

First, most states administer their own tolls, so each bill from each state means a dispute to a different call center.

“I don’t even call anymore, I just fill out the appeals and send them in because I’m tired of wasting time over the phone,” said Skewes.

The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) wants its member toll facility operators to have their systems work together better for the benefit of consumers.

But Mark Muriello, IBTTA’s director of policy and government affairs, says “what's made electronic toll collection successful in the U.S. has been not to, kind of, put many restrictions and requirements on agencies, but allow agencies to adopt the new technologies within their own local parameters in terms of state legislative requirements...”

When you drive through a toll, and you don’t have an E-Z Pass payment transponder, the license plate is photographed, and a bill is sent to the address listed on the registration for the corresponding license plate the technology thinks it sees.

NBC CT Responds found, not surprisingly, that toll technology is not always perfect.

“Unreadable or mistaken license plate reads are generally far less than 5%,” said Muriello.

And it appears Skewes is in that small percentage.

“He’s doing real well. He’s able to travel for free,” he said, about the driver not getting billed.

Muriello says drivers’ customer behaviors cause the most challenges capturing license plate images.

“Believe it or not, it's license plates that are either blocked, you know, inadvertently or intentionally, or they're missing, or they're obscured or somehow, they're altered, or you know, in some cases, there are fraudulent plates out there as well,” said Muriello.

And that may be why Skewes is dealing with this headache.

Since NBC CT Responds got on the case, we’ve helped speed up a solution for Skewes through our state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

“These cameras have been up there for a number of years now. I think they’re probably thinking maybe it’s time to invest in a little better camera system to really capture that moment,” said DMV Commissioner Tony Guerrera, who has been through a situation similar to Skewes himself.

Guerrera was charged a toll for someone who had the same plate number as him, but a different designation of plate.

In Connecticut, a passenger, combination and commercial plate could have the same license plate number.

CT DMV does not see a plate similar to Skewes in its database, so it has now sent a letter to all nearby tolling services that Skewes is getting charged for a potentially counterfeit plate.

So far, New York and Massachusetts have put the plate in question on a watch list and wiped away any charges to Skewes.

PJ Wilkins, the executive director overseeing the E-Z Pass group, tells us technology continues to improve all the time and these cases are not the norm.

With our help, Skewes hopes to keep his prized plate.

He says he reached out to NBC CT Responds because, “If it happens to me, it’s happening to others, and I also think there’s a flaw in that system. It needs to be looked at and nobody’s going to listen to me, so I’m hoping maybe if it goes out on a bigger picture, somebody will learn.”

If you’re traveling this summer or staying close to home, here’s the biggest takeaway from Skewes’ story: make sure to check your E-Z Pass bills and your online account, if you already have one. The quicker you spot a problem, the better.

Muriello suggests starting by troubleshooting with the organization that’s issuing your violation. Each organization most likely has a different way to dispute the charge.

Have an ongoing issue like Skewes? NBC CT Responds suggests calling the phone number that’s located on your E-Z Pass transponder, as that is the entity that issued your transponder.

In some states, like New York, there’s a toll advocate that can help with any issues. And of course, NBC CT Responds is always here to help if you’re getting the runaround.

Wilkins says when a fraudulent or stolen plate creates toll violations charged to the wrong person, he advises folks to get the DMV involved and law enforcement too.

Muriello also asks drivers to keep your license plate clean and unobstructed.

“If you have an electronic toll account, keep your account details up to date, including the license plate information that you have associated with your account,” said Muriello.

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