Target 11 investigates E-Z pass mistakes on Pennsylvania Turnpike

Drivers who use Pennsylvania Turnpike lanes marked "E-ZPass NO CASH" without an E-ZPass device will receive a notice in the mail, including a picture of their car and a fine that charges the driver from the farthest entry point.

Drivers who an E-ZPass account who don't have their transponder device or for whom the device fails to activate properly will only be charged $5, no matter how far the driver has gone on the road. That's called a "V-Toll."

"We're trying to give our E-ZPass customers the benefit of the doubt," said Carl DeFebo, director of public relations and marketing for the Turnpike. "Unlike our cash customers (whom) we don't necessarily know, we have information on our E-ZPass customers."

As of this month, 75 percent of drivers using the Pennsylvania Turnpike use E-ZPass. Target 11 went through the numbers and found that over the last three years, the number of V-Tolls has also increased.

In 2013, there were 176,000 violations. That number jumped to 221,861 in 2014. The number nearly doubled in 2015 to 424,936. But Turnpike officials said that despite the increased number of V-Tolls, they're not losing money from violators by offering the $5 deal.

"What you have to understand is a lot of our E-ZPass customers are making very short trips," DeFabo said. "For the most part, if you are a commuter, you have an E-ZPass, the most popular trip is just going from one exit to the next, and that's a dollar or so. Again, these are our preferred customers."

There are instances in which the E-ZPass transponder doesn't work for some reason. Turnpike officials said a far more common problem that they see is transponders mounted incorrectly.

The device should be placed on the vehicle's front windshield, right behind the rear-view mirror. The "reader" that communicates with the transponder in the E-ZPass lane is actually located above and before the toll booth. Having the transponder in the proper position ensures that reader can pick up the signal. Drivers who hold the device in their hands often fail, because they're not holding it up soon enough.

In some car models, the transponder has to be mounted on the outside of the car because of metal in the windshield or gauges in the rear-view mirror that block the signal.