Toll dodgers on M50 get fines and penalty points for tailgating trucks
THOUSANDS of motorists who risk their lives tailgating trucks to avoid a €3 toll face a nasty shock -- their number plates have been recorded from behind.
Gardai are considering a wave of prosecutions against motorists who were caught on camera driving just four feet behind heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in an attempt to avoid being captured on camera for paying the toll on Dublin's M50 motorway.
And the images show just how close drivers have come to causing carnage on the State's busiest motorway.
"This is lunacy. You can just imagine if the HGV driver tipped his brakes -- it's not a single vehicle collision, it's a multi-car pile up," one garda said.
Gardai said yesterday that more than 100 drivers -- of everything from small cars to high-end luxury models -- had been given on-the-spot fines of €80 and two penalty points after being caught attempting the manoeuvre. The actions began after the toll-booths on the motorway were removed in August 2008 and a barrier-free system was introduced.
The front number plates of all vehicles were captured by cameras fitted on gantries above the road, but some motorists discovered that driving just four feet behind a high truck meant their own number plate couldn't be recorded.
Toll operator Bet Eire Flow said last night that up to 50 motorists a day were being caught on camera tailgating to avoid paying the toll. The front number plates of 1,605 vehicles could not be captured during February because they were so close to the vehicles in front.
But extra cameras were installed to take pictures of the rear number plates after the high level of tailgating was noted.
"We have seen cars and vans slow down on approaching the tolling point and wait for HGVs so they can tuck in behind it," said Inspector Liam Carolan from the Traffic Corps. "The distance has to be less than four feet between the car and HGV to avoid the camera. Rear-facing cameras are now in use so numbers can be captured, and we are using an unmarked car on the M50 and M1.
"People risk their lives and it's pointless because the cameras are installed and they won't get away with not paying the toll. We will prosecute drivers who do this. We're looking at prosecuting retrospectively, but would need to send a file to the DPP and get directions."
Four operations so far have netted 106 offenders:
- On February 16, 41 drivers were caught.
- On November 24, 30 motorists were caught. Two vehicles were seized for not having insurance, one motorist was drink driving, and one car had altered its front number plate with masking tape so the number could not be photographed.
- On November 17, another 21 vehicles were stopped, and on October 29, gardai netted 14 offenders. "It's down to luck and nothing else that there haven't been accidents," Inspector Carolan added.
More than 100,000 vehicles use the M50 every day.