In an increasingly on-the-go world, people are more transient than they ever have been. With the hustle and bustle of life, they are out and about and traveling more for both business and leisure. Not surprisingly, traffic in cities and highways has been, and continues to be, an ongoing issue. Over the years, advances in technology and infrastructure have made driving both safer and more streamlined. Two of these innovations include E-ZPass and dashboard cameras, and each has their respective place on our modern roads.
E-ZPass is a system that was created so that drivers could quickly, automatically, and seamlessly pay their tolls without having to take the time to stop and pay at a tollbooth. The first step involves setting up an account with and acquiring a small transponder from the Massachusetts Department Of Transportation. While the transponder itself is free and there is no monthly rental or lease fee, every applicant must put money into their account upon sign-up ($20 for individual citizen accounts and $50 for commercial accounts). Individuals can sign up by joining the program online, downloading the application and mailing or faxing it, or by visiting one of the E-ZPass MA Customer Service Centers or sign-up locations.
Instead of paying retroactively after you go through tolls, the transponder works similarly to a debit or gift card. Once you set up an account with MassDOT and receive your transponder, the device attaches to the windshield of your vehicle and, when you pass through a designated E-ZPass lane, the traffic light in the lane will flash green, and the toll amount will be automatically deducted from your account. When the balance in your account goes below $10, the traffic light will be yellow to indicate that you have a low balance and need to replenish the account soon. If this occurs, you will need to somehow renew the balance available in your account.
To replenish your account, there are a few options. The first option is to set up Automatic Account Replenishment which requires you to assign a credit/debit card or bank account number to your E-ZPass account and, when your balance falls below $10, it will automatically charge your card or bank account to bring your balance back up to $20 (or $50 respectively). While this is definitely the most convenient option, it is important to remember to keep an eye on your connected payment account so that you don't accidentally overdraft or max out when the replenishment charge goes through. The second option is Manual Account Replenishment. When your account falls below $10 (indicated by the yellow light at the tollbooth), you can pay by mailing a check to the E-ZPass MA Customer Service Center, 27 Midstate Drive, Auburn, MA 01501 OR paying by cash or credit/debit card at any of the walk-in Customer Service Centers. The third option is cash payment via using self-service kiosks with cashier assistance at retail cash payment locations. (Note: a convenience fee of $1.95 for each E-ZPass account will be charged when using the cash payment option.)
Aside from the convenience factor, there are a number of other benefits to using E-ZPass. Individual account holders receive a $0.25 cent toll discount at the Allston-Brighton tolls and a $0.50 cent discount at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels and the Tobin Memorial Bridge. Qualified residents of Charlestown and Chelsea can use the Tobin Bridge for a discounted toll rate of $0.30 cents, and qualified residents of East Boston, South Boston, or the North End can use the Tunnels for a discounted toll rate of $0.40 cents. Accounts can be managed conveniently online via the E-ZPass Account Manager website. Once you set up an online account, you can update your account and vehicle information, view active transponder activity, order transponder supplies, check your account transactions, and make payments! Also, users who use toll roads and tunnels regularly (for work or travel) and spend above a certain amount can be eligible for a Massachusetts Personal Income Tax Commuter Deduction. At the beginning of each year, you can log-in to your E-ZPass online account, and print out your tax deductible amount from the previous tax year. Lastly, individuals can give friends, family and loved ones E-ZPass for birthdays, graduation and students going off to college by purchasing gift certificates available at the walk-in Customer Service Center or by calling toll-free at 877-627-7745.
Dashboard cameras or "dashcams" are cameras that continuously record video from inside a vehicle and, similar to GoPro Cameras, attach to windshields or to the top of the dashboard by suction cup or adhesive-tape mount. Options for dashcams range from recording basic video to including more expansive features such as date/time stamps, current speeds, and GPS location. People use them for a variety of reasons ranging from potentially capturing accidents, instances of road rage, and videotaping the actions of police officers all the way to recording a scenic drive on a road trip or capturing the excitement of extreme sports. While their use in the U.S. is rising, they have gained a lot of steam and notoriety in Russia by being used as tools to fight against police corruption and insurance fraud situations. They have also gained recognition and popularity through videos posted on YouTube and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. They have also unexpectedly captured events such as the video of the Russian meteor explosion.
While their general use is widespread, laws surrounding them vary country-to-country. In the U.S., they are protected under the First Amendment for video-taping public events in public spaces. However, video-taping non-public events and/or in non-public spaces, as well as their general admissibility as evidence in court, varies state-by-state. In Illinois for example, it is illegal to record law enforcement officers regardless of whether they are performing their public duties in a public space. In some countries, their use is illegal or heavily limited, and possession of them or the use of them outside the scope of the law as written may carry heavy fines or jail time.