TOLL-evading EastLink commuters were hit with $175,000 in fines in a Sheriff's Office blitz on the road last Tuesday.
One woman who had against her 74 outstanding warrants was asked to pay $20,000 on the spot to avoid having her car wheel-clamped. The Department of Justice said she went to a bank and withdrew cash to pay it.
The operation was carried out using automatic numberplate recognition technology — cameras took images of numberplates before drivers entered the Melba tunnel.
Numberplates were then processed by sheriff's officers and compared against a list of vehicles with outstanding warrants or fines.
In cases of a match, drivers were pulled over on the other side of the tunnel and told to pay up or risk having their vehicles clamped.
Traffic was brought to a standstill as a total of 3000 cars were checked.
The operation identified 38 people with 614 outstanding warrants totalling $175,000.
Sheriff of Victoria Brendan Facey said the operation was a blunt reminder that drivers need to pay their fines or risk hefty penalties.
"While most people do the right thing and pay their fines early, these operations reinforce the message that you cannot ignore outstanding fines."
Mr Facey said drivers who continued to flout the law would be forced to pay outstanding fines one way or another.
"There is a range of payment options available for people who have difficulty paying outstanding fines.
"These include wheel-clamping, seizure of property, performing community work, licence registration or suspension and registration non-renewals, which prevent people from renewing or transferring their car registration if they do not pay their fines."
ConnectEast managing director Dennis Cliche said unpaid invoices were something the company had to constantly resolve.
"We estimate that 1000 infringement notices a day are issued as a result of non-payment of EastLink toll invoices," he said. "The small percentage of motorists who don't pay for using toll roads should stay off the road.
"Toll evasion is like shoplifting or using public transport without paying."
Initial toll invoices of about $15 can escalate to an infringement penalty of $141 and eventually to a warrant totalling $288.
More than $66,000 worth of fines were paid on site during the blitz.