NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) may be just days away from beginning a strict new enforcement effort against drivers who have racked up huge toll bills.

The effort, meant to crack down on drivers who owe money, is only for extreme cases. As it stands, the list of scofflaws consists of some 78,000 people. “It’s a large amount, but when you realize that we are doing more than half-a-billion transactions in a year, it’s statistically much smaller than it would appear,” NTTA spokesman Michael Rey explained.

Having nearly 80,000 violators across the entire state may not seem like a lot, but collectively those individuals owe the NTTA about $50 million in unpaid transactions, fines and fees.

Once Governor Perry signs the legislation into law the NTTA will take it from there. “The NTTA will notify the habitual violators, those with more than 100 tolls over the past year, that they are eligible for a grace period to make good on those tolls,” Rey said adding, “If they do not [pay] then in the future, 90 days from now, they will then be eligible for having their vehicle registration blocked or being banned from NTTA roadways.”

The legislation will also go so far as allowing law enforcement to take the vehicles of the most extreme NTTA toll violators. Rey said that action could be taken if the driver was caught on a toll road. “If they [violators] were found driving on an NTTA roadway, they could have their vehicle impounded.”

Legislators and NTTA officials aren’t the only ones concerned and upset that there are currently no consequences for repeat violators. Rey said paying drivers are chiming in on the topic. “They feel that if they pay then everybody else should pay. It’s not fair. It’s theft. It’s almost a form of shoplifting if you will.”

Rey is hoping violators will take advantage of the 90-day grace period. “Folks need to act,” he said. This is the greatest opportunity you’re going to have to take care of these outstanding tolls.”

He believes drivers who regularly pay to use the tollways support this action.  CBS 11 News spoke to local motorists who generally agree.

“It’s an eye-for-an-eye kind of thing,” says Kevin Cornwell of Flower Mound.  “You’re responsible to pay your debts and I think that’s a consequence that’ll get people to pay the money that’s owed to the toll tag association, (NTTA) and I think they have every right to do that.”

Cornwell adds, “Driving is a privilege and you have a certain responsibility to drive and if you don’t pay what you owe then I believe you should have some consequences to go with that.”

Barbara Holtkamp of Irving has some reservations, though.  “I don’t know about impounding the cars, I think that’s kind of harsh. However, I do think maybe put restrictions on drivers licenses or something like that.  Because I pay my tolls every time and I know it’s hard because the toll roads are going up, but I think if you’re going to use the toll tag and you’re going to use the tollroads, you need to pay.”

The NTTA owns and operates several North Texas roadways including the Dallas North Tollway, President George Bush Turnpike and Sam Rayburn Tollway.

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