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Sunday, September 2, 2007

E-ticketing will result in quicker police stops

Getting a traffic ticket in Indiana will soon become a little less of a hassle, at least as far as police are concerned. A new e-ticket system, which will be available later this year to law enforcement agencies statewide, promises to save time and money, cut the number of errors and free court employees from having to type information into computers.

It will, officials said, move citation writing from a sometimes barely legible handwritten affair into the computer age. Called electronic Citation and Warning System, or eCWS, the system will allow police officers to scan a driver's license and registration using laptop computers in their patrol cars. The driver's name, address, license number and other information are transferred to a ticket form. Motorists will still receive paper citations, but they will be printouts produced on the spot.

Once implemented, the system will allow police to get real-time information about drivers' records, including whether they had been stopped earlier the same day by another officer and issued a warning. The system represents the biggest change in traffic tickets since the early 1900s, said Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

At a news conference at the Statehouse Rotunda, Shepard held up a 1919 speeding ticket from South Bend. The ticket was handwritten, and a line was scratched out and new information written in. Shepard noted tickets haven't changed much since then. Traffic tickets represent almost half of the documents that launch court proceedings in the state, he said.

Writing tickets by hand has worked, "but not well enough," he said.
"Platoons of people" at various locations have to re-enter the information, which sometimes is hard to read, Shepard said. Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell pointed out it takes about 15 minutes for an officer to write a ticket. With the electronic system, that time will be cut to five to seven minutes. That can add up quickly, as troopers issue about 750,000 warnings and tickets a year, he said.
Whitesell also said the system could help keep troopers safer by reducing the amount of time they spend outside their patrol vehicles. He noted four troopers were injured within the span of a couple of days recently when they were struck by cars after stopping vehicles along the roadway.

"You always want to keep your eyes up" when you're on the road, Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Kutz said. The new system helps him do just that. The system is being tested by Kutz and four other officers, including one with the Fishers Police Department. A hand-held version is being prepared for motorcycle officers.

The cost of testing and implementing the system: $2.4 million. Funding came from several federal agencies, including the Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Homeland Security. About two dozen states are putting similar systems into place.

Story from, Rob Schneider.

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