SOUTHERN INDIANA — Drivers in Indiana and Kentucky who owe tolls to the states via RiverLink might soon have a hold placed on their vehicle registration until they pay their bill in full.
Starting later this month, vehicle registrations will be frozen for drivers who have received at least four unpaid RiverLink toll notices, most of which come attached with extra fines. The notices, referred to as a first notice, second notice, violation notice and collections notice are mailed over a minimum of a 135-day period, according to a news release.
Around 19,000 Indiana drivers and 16,000 Indiana ones are expected to be affected by the holds, said RiverLink Spokesperson Mindy Peterson. In total, their unpaid tolls and fees amount to around $7 million, although no individual amount owed exceeds $100. RiverLink has collected $54 million in total from drivers crossing the bridges since tolling began.
The drivers affected by the holds are having their vehicle registration targeted now because tolling only began in December. Holds will placed in waves as more drivers receive their final collections notice.
The holds, which are authorized by individual Kentucky and Indiana legislation, are a matter of fairness, according to Peterson.
"It's a common enforcement tool, and it's an important one," Peterson said. "Because we need all the drivers who are enjoying the benefits of the new and improved bridges to pay their fair share."
Tolls go back to Kentucky and Indiana to maintain the bridges and the tolling system, as well as to pay off the cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project.
When drivers receive their first toll invoice, they have 30 days to pay. The second invoice includes a $5 fee and takes 20 days to pay off. The violation notice carries an additional $25 fine and the collection notice, another $30 fee, meaning some drivers are facing $60 in fines in addition to their original toll amount.
Drivers have to pay all the money they owe to get the hold from their vehicle registration removed, but before they get to that point, they can sign up for a payment plan.
A payment plan allows a driver to pay 10 percent of their bill in the beginning and then pay off the rest within a certain time frame.
The best way to stave off extra tolling fees, however, is to register for a RiverLink account and use the transponder given, according to Peterson. Account holders can arrange for their accounts to auto-fill with more money after its depleted, making it so they never receive a tolling invoice. Drivers with accounts also pay the lowest toll amount, which ranges from $2 to $4 for passenger vehicles.
Kentucky and Indiana didn't want to catch drivers by surprise by placing a hold on their registration, however, said Scott Adams, Indiana Department of Transportation director of tolling for the Ohio River Bridges in a statement.
“We’re letting them know now that registration holds will soon be issued, in hopes that affected drivers will reach out to RiverLink and pay tolls owed,” he said. “By doing so, they can avoid a hold when going to renew their vehicle registration.”
RiverLink customers will receive a written notification of their registration hold ten days after their collections notice is mailed. Collection calls are also made to affected customers. If customers don’t answer the phone, a message is left to contact RiverLink for important account information.
The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Kentucky Motor Vehicle Licensing are notified when they are required to place a hold on a vehicle registration.
Payments to lift the hold must be made to RiverLink and can’t be accepted by the BMV, MVL or County Clerk’s Office in Kentucky.
The registration hold will be released “soon” after the tolls are paid. Drivers will receive a RiverLink notification letter in the mail stating that the hold has been lifted.
Drivers in other states are currently immune from having their registrations frozen, but Peterson said there is a push by tolling systems at the federal level to add more teeth to tolling laws.