If you’ve ever driven on a toll road, you know how much of a hassle it can be when you approach the toll booths. Long lines develop as people fish for change to pay the toll. People swerve erratically to avoid the longest lines, and distracted drivers have even been known to cause accidents near toll booths as the attempt to navigate around other drivers.
Electronic toll tags have risen in popularity in recent years as a response to the various issues with handling physical cash. There are a number of benefits to the process, many of which have encouraged localities to switch to toll tags entirely from human toll-takers.
There are a number of benefits to toll tags. Many of them are newer, thanks to the pandemic: not having to handle cash or speak face-to-face with a person who is collecting tolls is one way to avoid spreading coronavirus. However, there were benefits even before COVID.
Toll tags greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to get through toll gates. People can just drive under the scanner and continue moving, keeping traffic flowing and avoiding the lengthy process of fishing for cash, handing it the toll taker and waiting for the gate to be lifted.
This, in turn, sidesteps a lot of the friction of toll roads. The aforementioned accidents outside of toll gates are much less likely to occur when toll tags allow traffic to continue flowing as normal. This also reduces emissions: vehicle idling makes up a huge portion of greenhouse gasses, meaning that smoother traffic is good for the environment in the long run.
Nothing is without drawbacks, of course. Electronic toll tags are no exception. For one thing, there’s always the possibility that the electronic system malfunctions and fails to properly bill drivers. Sometimes, it may fail to bill them altogether, costing the state or locality money. In other cases, it could overcharge drivers, angering the public and fostering negative sentiment towards the department of transportation.
Another potential drawback is the concern of privacy. Toll tags could be used to track the movements of the average driver, raising concerns that the government could use such measures to keep tabs on the populace. Even now, toll tag data is used in research into traffic patterns, and the technology has been used by law enforcement to detect the movements of suspects.
However, many feel as though these drawbacks are minimal compared to the convenience and safety of the electronic tolling tags. And, like it or not, they’re likely to be the future for toll roads going forward.