Perhaps this is not the most clear question, so let me explain. I own a toll tag and can normally take the 'subscriber' booth and drive straight through. But today I had left my tag in the other car and immediately realized why I own a tag. (Hint: it's not just for the discount).

Of course I didn't stop close enough to the booth and had to unfasten my seatbelt to put my credit card awkwardly in the machine. The credit card came out again and the machine said 'transaction succesful, have a nice trip'.

While I was awkwardly holding my credit card, not wearing a seatbelt and had with the window open, the barrier went up. I threw my credit card on the passenger seat, quickly fastened my seatbelt again, drove off and tried closing the window while driving. None of it felt natural.

So my question: how do I do this? Can I do all these things before driving or should I really get a car with electric windows and practice stopping closer to the booth? (Or not leave the tag in the other car ..)

If location matters, this is for France and to a lesser extend Netherlands, but I would love a general answer.

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    Presumably the barrier isn't going to slam back down again immediately? You could take a couple seconds to get your things in order. There's not much the person behind you can do about it anyway. – Zach Lipton Jul 9 '16 at 20:19
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    I think almost all motorway barriers have anti-hit sensors, nor will they close on a timer but wait until the car has been detected as passing. I bet you could sit there for 2 hours without the barrier closing – Berwyn Jul 9 '16 at 22:44
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    @Berwyn - I would bet that toll officials will be notified of the gate not closing long before two hours expire and come to see what is wrong. – user13044 Jul 10 '16 at 0:05
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    This is bizarre. The barrier will wait for you as long as you want. – Fattie Jul 10 '16 at 14:36
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    I have travelled quite a bit in countries like India which has quite a few of these toll booths. And the mechanism is quite easy to spot there. They have some sort of a sensor box on the barrier. The barrier closes down only after this sensor detects that the car has passed through. So, you should be fine. – DarthVader Jul 11 '16 at 6:30
up vote 94 down vote accepted

I ride a motorcycle (I've never learned to drive a car) and I cannot imagine anything you could be doing in a car that takes as long as zipping up the riding suit, putting the gloves back on, putting the helmet front down, and getting ready to ride off (all whilst trying not to drop the bike on the giant diesel smear that nearly every tollbooth features). Yet I have never, in 28 years (and about 300,000 miles) of riding all round the US and Europe, had one of these barriers close on me after I'd given it money, but before I was ready to ride off. I am fairly sure they have sensors to detect the passage of the paid-for vehicle, and they just don't close until those are triggered.

The only time anything like this has ever been an issue is in car parks with pay-before-leaving machines: the grace period they allow between paying and leaving is short enough that you sometimes cannot fit the earplugs, don riding suit, helmet, and gloves, finish packing the bike, and get to the barrier before the grace period is exhausted. In such cases, a short conversation over the intercom system ("I'm on a motorbike") is enough to get the barrier (re-)opened.

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    Wow, I never realized that! You got the most helpful and addressed everything that caused my fears. So I will accept your answer, but Aganju's answer has been helpful too! – Belle-Sophie Jul 10 '16 at 8:52
  • It's usually an optical sensor, occasionally a magnetic one (magnetic sensors aren't affected by fog or dust, but don't register bicycles, and occasionally miss a motorcycle). – Mark Jul 10 '16 at 23:09
  • @Mark I'd also expect a good amount of induction loop systems – Gusdor Jul 11 '16 at 11:41
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    @gnasher729 - I used to go over Dartford Bridge (QEII Bridge) fairly often on my bike. On a dry day, even with the coin inside my glove ready, it would take about 5-6 minutes to pay and get ready to move again. On a rainy day.... 15 minutes maybe to pull your soaking glove back on again. So happy when they made it free. :) – Darren Bartrup-Cook Jul 12 '16 at 9:50

From personal experience, you have more than 30 seconds at least. Normally, the bar does not go down unless a car passes through, so you don't need to hurry at all.

You will find that after some instances, it will be much smoother too, and you won't need more than two or three seconds anyway; but don't stress yourself.

Try to be considerate to the queue behind you though (if any); they will hate you much less if you don't spend 30 seconds sorting your stuff. You can always pass through the bar and pull right over to sort your stuff out before continuing.

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    I wouldn't say that you can always pull right over to sort your stuff. Many of the toll booths I've been through were on major highways where pulling over is prohibited for anything other than an emergency. – reirab Jul 11 '16 at 5:44
  • @reirab I have never seen highway code to be in effect for the 1st couple of 100 meters after the toll-booth. In most cases there are several booths and the exits of the booths merge in to a smaller number of lanes before becoming regular road. Only at that point normal road-rules come into effect. And in most cases their is even a parking-strip/lane after the booth. – Tonny Jul 11 '16 at 11:11
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    At the toll booth that I used most often, "pull right to sort your stuff out" would get you killed (that was 12 toll booths joining into four motorway lanes). – gnasher729 Jul 11 '16 at 12:02

The barrier will wait for you - even for 10 minutes.

As a safety matter, you absolutely must not rush.

Take your time and correctly put away the coins, cards etc. Do not rush, for any reason.

You mention you had to actually turn off the car, open the door, and step sideways to use the machine.

This is utterly normal. I do it 100% of the time (just because I'm both relaxed and OCD), and I'd say, oh, at least 15% of drivers do this.

You seem to have completely the wrong idea, and I am happy to bring you the good news!

(1) the barrier will wait for you indefinitely

(2) you seem to express a desire to rush, or something, through the process. I can't comprehend this. take as long as you want.

(I can absolutely assure you, the only thing other drivers want is for you to be safe - there is zero other consideration on the road.)

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    "the only thing other drivers want is for you to be safe - there is zero other consideration on the road" I'm sorry but that's manifestly untrue. Sure, other road users want you to be safe but they also want you to make reasonably timely progress. Just try driving down a city street at 5mph if you want to learn about other drivers' attitudes to safety versus not being in everybody's way. – David Richerby Jul 10 '16 at 18:56
  • @DavidRicherby many roads do have a minimum speed limit... though actually driving the posted maximum speed limit is enough to attract tailgater's and be cut off on many roads too. No matter you do (no fault of your own) what there's probably someone driving somewhere behind you that's upset – Xen2050 Jul 11 '16 at 10:34
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    "This is utterly normal." Getting out of the car to use a card reader that's conveniently located at car window height is normal? And you see at least 15% of drivers do this? Where the hell are you driving? That's just manifestly untrue for every country I've ever driven through. And if you dawdle at a toll booth you better hope you don't have someone behind you who's having a really bad day. Standard behaviour is safe behaviour on the road. – Lilienthal Jul 11 '16 at 11:47
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    @JoeBlow I'm a very calm driver and I couldn't care less about drivers that are in a hurry :) I didn't know it will wait, that's good to know – Belle-Sophie Jul 12 '16 at 8:41
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    @JoeBlow - The OP doesn't need to rush through the toll booth; I agree with that. But turning the engine off and getting out the car is manifestly not normal, and will annoy people behind. I expect to wait 10-20 seconds for people to sort themselves out, not 3 minutes. – AndyT Jul 12 '16 at 11:11

First hone your driving skills. There is nothing really technical about stopping your car up close to the machine, just takes practice.

Second when I am dealing with tolls (cash or card) I put my wallet on the seat next to me or center console, so it is easily accessible at each toll plaza.

Not sure how toll tags work in France, but perhaps get one for each car and have them tied to the same funding account.

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    The first step is to notice where the card-reader part of the booth actually is, and position your car accordingly. For example, don't stop in a position where your body blocks your arm from reaching the card reader easily unless you unfasten your seat belt. The barrier should have a sensor and won't fall until you are clear of it, provided that when you do (eventually) drive off after rearranging your stuff inside the car and/or closing the window, you then keep moving. – alephzero Jul 10 '16 at 1:00
  • We always stop with the back window, so the kids can pay either the person or the machine! – Fattie Jul 12 '16 at 12:39

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