Deloris Ritchie’s two kids were coming home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday. So Ritchie and her 79-year-old mother made the trip to the JFK airport in Queens in the wee hours of Thanksgiving day to retrieve them. However, on the way home from the airport, Ritchie was pulled over on the RFK bridge. The reason for being stopped was a little unclear, as one officer said it was due to suspended registration and another said it was due to unpaid tolls.
Regardless of the reason, Ritchie and her family were put in the police cruiser, with all of the kids’ luggage, and driven off the bridge to 138th street where they were left. At 2 am. 30 miles from home in freezing temperatures with a nearly 80 year-old woman and a bunch of luggage. The family pleaded with the officers not to tow the car and leave them in the street.
The family was able to get an Uber to the Montefiore Hospital where Ritchie’s husband worked, and eventually the family found their way back home. Understandably upset, Ritchie said, ““This ruined my Thanksgiving. It was traumatizing for my mother and my children who have never been in trouble. My son is 18, and he told me ... ‘Mom, I don’t feel safe.’ He didn’t even want to drive while he was here.”
When Ritchie went to the DMV on Monday morning, she found that she owed E-ZPass NY toll company $12,000 in tolls. She says she initially laughed thinking the amount was a joke, “They said I owed $12,000 in tolls, and I said, 'Absolutely not,' and laughed it off like she's playing around, but she didn't laugh back. That's when I was like, 'This is serious. $12,000 is serious.'"
The company claimed that Ritchie hadn’t paid her toll bill in months, since the system went cashless. Yet she had copies of her bills the checks that she used to pay them. The ordeal to get her car back and settle the case lasted months, costing Ritchie and her family thousands of dollars in the process.
Ritchie says the worst part of the whole thing was how she was treated by those officers on Thanksgiving, “They didn’t have a heart. Not so much for me, but to throw an elderly woman out of the car at 2 o’clock in the morning. You see her holding onto the car, and there was no remorse. Nothing,” she said.
Ritchie’s story isn’t singular. Many people have found themselves at the mercy of the toll companies whose websites don’t offer much help and most call systems are automated. The system is being investigated, and amnesty programs have been set up in the meantime. Hopefully, the ongoing investigations will prevent another family from facing the same treatment as the Ritchie family.
Continue reading about the ridiculous toll debacles, “Family left on road at night over $12,000 in cashless toll fees” written by Christopher J Eberhart at Poughkeepsie Journal posted on February 14, 2018.