M50 toll dodgers shave thousands off bill as penalty is less than fines
HUNDREDS of motorists who racked up fines of more than €10,000 by refusing to pay the toll on Dublin's M50 have escaped paying the full amount.
This is because the district court can only fine them a maximum of €6,348.69 – resulting in one offender managing to save more than €43,500 on their €50,000 bill.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed that 2,500 motorists were ordered to appear in court this year after failing to pay the €3 maximum toll for cars and subsequent penalties.
Hundreds were fined the maximum amount, despite incurring higher charges.
They included one individual who had fines totalling €50,000 and who failed to respond to more than a dozen letters ordering them to pay.
The NRA said that judgments had been made against the offenders, and that city and county sheriffs were working to recover the debt.
"A lot of the offenders were settled before going to court through payment plan arrangements," a spokesman said.
"There were formal judgments made against others, and they were acted upon by the sheriff.
"There are limitations in the court in terms of financial sanctions, but we're talking about changing behaviour. You can get 3,000 trips for the same money as a court fine."
Almost 110,000 trips a day are taken on the M50, and 96pc of motorists pay the toll.
Motorists using the capital's ring road paid the toll at a barrier erected between the Blanchardstown (N3) and Lucan (N4) exits until August 2008.
Since then, an electronic system has been used, with cameras mounted on a gantry above the motorway recording the number plates of all vehicles passing the tolling point.
Motorists must pay the €3 charge by 8pm the day after their journey. Late-payment penalties can bring the final bill to €143.50 if the toll is not paid within 70 days, after which legal action is taken.
This year, one driver has travelled through the tolling point between the Lucan and Blanchardstown exits 750 times without paying.
New figures from the NRA also show:
• Drivers paid €7m so far this year late-payment fines.
• Some €110m has been paid in motorway tolls.
• 2,500 civil summons have been issued. Ten court dates were set aside for the cases.
• This year, all judgments were in favour of the NRA.
• One motorist had their car seized for non-payment.
• The cost of enforcement this year was €3m.
The NRA said that vehicles from 50 countries have been recorded using the M50, including cars from Russia and Qatar.
Just over half of the 'foreign' registered cars come from Northern Ireland, and 75pc of these users have an electronic tag which automatically takes the toll payment.
Some 8,000 motorists a month are registering with an electronic tag, which grants them cheaper tolls.
The NRA said it was "only fair" that it chased offenders, because more drivers "played by the rules". "What we're trying to do is change behaviour," the spokesman added.