COLUMBUS (AP) — Drivers pulled over by Ohio troopers are getting printouts instead of hand-scribbled citations as the State Highway Patrol expands an electronic ticketing system to reduce errors, make paperwork easier to read and cut the time officers spend outside during stops.
Troopers previously wrote drivers’ license and offense information on carbon-copy forms, which were checked and compiled at patrol posts and hand-delivered to courts.
Now they’re using mobile computers to import license data and fill out citations. It auto-completes some data and generates prompts to help eliminate mistakes, such as setting a court appearance for a day when offices are closed, patrol spokesman Lt. Craig Cvetan said.
Troopers print the letter-size citations in their vehicles with thermal printers that don’t require ink cartridges, and they keep ticket books on hand in case of technical glitches.
“Our workforce has gotten a lot younger over the years, and they’re the computer generation, so anything we can do on the computer they seem to take to a lot quicker,” said Lt. Kevin Knapp of the Delaware post.
Knapp said the change is a big deal for troopers but probably not for drivers.
“I don’t think it really matters what we hand them,” he said. “They’re not really happy to be in that situation in the first place.”
The system piloted in spring 2013 is now used by most Ohio posts, and they want to take it a step further by arranging to electronically transmit citation information to local courts.
In one pilot program, the Delaware Municipal Court clerk in central Ohio started receiving traffic citations electronically in mid-January, significantly cutting the time it takes to enter each ticket. Information that took three minutes to type now downloads in 36 seconds, clerk of court Cindy Dinovo said. The court handled upward of 12,000 patrol filings last year, so the switch could save potentially hundreds of hours of work.
The patrol and the court say the system was arranged with encrypted data and a high regard for security to protect against improper alterations. The patrol eventually hopes to electronically handle crash reports and criminal citations, too, and to transmit information wirelessly from vehicles instead of via uploads from various posts.
The Ohio Association of Municipal and County Court Clerks is excited by the possibility of expanding electronic delivery to more courts, said Dinovo, who serves as an official with the group.
She said the system has worked smoothly, appears to be reducing mistakes and was a relatively inexpensive change because her court already was upgrading its server.
“I don’t think there’s a downside,” she said.
It was more costly for the patrol, which paid nearly $736,000 to buy printers for 1,350 vehicles. The patrol incorporated the switch to e-citations as it redesigned its crash and case program in the past few years, Cvetan said.
He said his agency continually evaluates whether technology used elsewhere could help it improve efficiency.
E-citations are used by at least a dozen state police and patrol agencies around the country, and many of those electronically transfer tickets to courts, according to information gathered by Brad Card with the National Troopers Coalition.