A no BYH to the neighbor constantly burning. You got me sick. So I’m sending you the dr bill....

My GPS never ‘tolled’ me Georgia might pick my pockets


Mark Rutledge

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cutting across Georgia last June on our way home from a week in Florida, we asked our GPS service to help us avoid Atlanta. That wound up being a major wrong turn.

Not the avoiding Atlanta part—for no one in his right mind should ever traverse that perpetual traffic jam of a city outside of a life-or-death mission.

But the next time we need to avoid Atlanta traffic, we will be armed with a recently published road atlas, a full tank of gas, and plenty of snacks.

The atlas is because GPS does not know a private road from a hole in the ground, and Georgia does not cotton to out-of-state interlopers driving on its private roads.

The full tank and snacks are so we do not have to pull over and potentially spend money. I don’t expect that it will leave any noticeable dents in Georgia’s economy, but we’ll be stopping for peaches in South Carolina.

If I started listing all the people I love who have deep Georgia roots, this column could grow a tree. So far as I know, none of them is responsible for establishing Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority and we can still be friends.

Driving on SRTA roads requires a “Peach Pass” or the equivalent from similar roadways in Florida and North Carolina.

We’re living back in good old Tennessee, where no highways have yet been designated as private clubs. During 15 years of living in North Carolina, I accidentally crossed paths with a camera-activated toll road only once.

I protested the bill, and it was lowered to a reasonable amount. I did not make that mistake again until last summer’s GPS goof in Georgia. We quickly realized that the toll road was not the kind with pay booths, and we exited at the first opportunity.

More than six months later, we received a bill for $25.50. That might seem hefty for spending a couple of miles on a pay road, but it came with a lovely photograph of the back of our van.

It just so happens we needed a horizontal shot to help finish out our vacation album.

I called the toll-free number, where a kind lady listened to my “but we didn’t mean to” defense. She gave me detailed instructions for begging mercy in writing to the powers that be.

The powers that be never wrote back, but a bonus letter came to the house a month later. It’s from a collection agency in Milwaukee informing us that it will be handling our Peach Pass violation payment from here on out. Nice.

This upsetting development led me to go online seeking other avenues for venting my frustration. On social media sites run by the Peach Pass people — and others apparently established by anti-Peach Pass people — I read violation stories far more egregious than ours.

Most complaints are from Peach Pass motoring club members. One news item involved a woman who had racked up thousands of dollars in fines, mostly for “hot lane violations.” She had been unaware that her driving habits were being recorded.

I guess that six-month lag between violation and fine letter can be really expensive.

I think I’ll just pay our little fine and be done with it. Maybe I’ll even send a contribution and a thank-you note to the Tennessee Highway Patrol—for still giving us Tennessee Volunteers a sporting chance.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.