Georgia reverses ban on 'pay it forward' charity at toll booths

The tradition of travelers paying the toll for the driver behind them on Georgia Highway 400 is back after motorists complained and Gov. Nathan Deal asked for it to be reinstated.

Last month, the State Road and Tollway Authority banned the practice after some motorists complained that cashiers might be pocketing the extra 50 cents instead.

Bert Brantley, the authority's executive director, said Friday the agency had already been working to find a way to reinstate the practice after motorists began complaining when they couldn't donate a toll. Agency officials worked with the cashiers to come up with a solution that will keep the donated money visible so motorists can trust their good deed will help someone in need, Brantley said.

"This small gesture that people do, they can continue to do that," Brantley said.

The move means motorists will have a few more months to donate money for tolls on Georgia Highway 400. The toll booths are scheduled to come down the week before Thanksgiving.

"For the duration of this toll, it is important we continue to protect Ga. 400's image as the 'hospitality highway' and allow motorists' the ability to demonstrate goodwill toward their fellow man," state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said in a statement, praising the reversal.

Brantley said the authority has seen an increase in motorists "paying it forward" since officials announced the toll booths would be disappearing soon.

"They pay for the guy behind them, they smile at our cashiers. They are just happier as they come through," Brantley said. "It's like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders."

Brantley said that when some looked in their rearview mirror and saw the person behind them paying they were concerned that the cashiers were keeping the money for themselves. Since the authority investigates each complaint, more time was being spent questioning cashiers, which prompted the initial ban.

In most cases, Brantley said, the second motorist had simply told the cashier to save it for the person behind him or her.