E-ZPass, other toll transponders don't work with all windshields

Consumer Reports News: April 30, 2012 09:38 AM

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As toll-collection agencies have moved to automated payment systems that use car-mounted transponders in place of traditional tollbooths, many drivers have found the technology to be a real convenience and time saver. But some are also finding unexpected violation notices in their mailboxes because of how they are used and in which vehicles they are mounted.

Driving too fast through a toll is one sure way to get a ticket and possibly loss of transponder privileges. Holding a transponder out the window is another, because the systems scan a very specific range to identify individual vehicles and which lane they are in.

Drivers who prefer to hold their transponder rather than attaching it to the vehicle are called "wavers" by some in the toll trade, and officials say they are more common than you might think. Some wavers are concerned about cluttering up the look of their car with a transponder, and others say they use the device in more than one vehicle—as is the case for everyone who drives CR's test cars.

Land-Rover-Evoque-windshield-up-close.jpgOthers become wavers because of their vehicles. Our Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is equipped with infrared-blocking glass that may help keep the cabin cool, but unfortunately, it means a windshield-mounted E-ZPass transponder won't work. And not to single out Land Rover, the same is true of models from a number of manufacturers that have used various coatings on their windshields over the years, including BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz.

The solution, according to a Land Rover representative, is a license-plate-mounted transponder, something a Pennsylvania E-ZPass spokesperson told us is offered at no extra cost by any of the 14 various agencies in eastern states that use the system. Pennsylvania shared with us a list of vehicles that may pose a problem; others can be found online. But no list we've seen appears to be completely current, and none include the Evoque.

If you've owned your vehicle for any length of time, chances are you already know whether a transponder works with your windshield or not. But if you're new to the routine or have just traded to a new vehicle, check with your dealer or toll agency before cruising through your first toll. You may save yourself a ticket.

Jim Travers

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