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eTicket Tech Brings Rhode Island Traffic into Digital Age

The technology is what any speeder should expect in the Information Age: The police officer keys in a plate or driver's license number, and the in-cruiser laptop computer handles the vast majority of data entry after that.

by Mark Reynolds, The Providence Journal, R.I. / April 12, 2016

(TNS) -- The chief magistrate of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal expects problems when a traffic ticket is written so sloppily that he can't read it.

"The administration of justice bogs down from a time standpoint," Magistrate William R. Guglietta said. "And there's also, to the motorist, sort of an inherent unfairness to them because they're reading it one way and we may be reading it another way."

The solution, Guglietta said, is "eTicket."

Later this year, the police in every Rhode Island city and town, with the possible exception of New Shoreham, are expected to be using eTicket or eCitation, according to the tribunal.

The technology is what any speeder should expect in the Information Age: The police officer keys in a plate number, or a driver's license number, and the in-cruiser laptop computer handles the vast majority of data entry after that.

With eTicket, the system also sends the data to the tribunal right from the road.

On June 8, 2015, the tribunal asserted its rule-making powers under state law to require all ticket-writing police agencies in the state to the equipment and training necessary to send ticket information to the tribunal electronically.

Many police departments were already using the technologies. Some, including Providence and various campus departments, were not. But Providence is expected to be using the technology by midsummer.

The Providence Police Department has tapped into a $150,000 federal grant to cover the cost of outfitting 40 vehicles with the software and hardware, according to a spokeswoman, Lindsay Lague.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said the system minimizes human error. For example, when officers fill in a field for a particular violation, the system automatically calculates the fine.

It reduces human error significantly while providing accountability, he said.

Daniel Beardsley, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, wants to cite the tribunal for creating an unfunded state mandate.

"An unfunded mandate is an unfunded mandate," he said, "and if the state thinks it's a good idea, they should have asked for it in the appropriations act."

Craig Berke, a spokesman for the tribunal, said the vast majority of police departments were already doing electronic ticketing prior to the requirement and the departments can meet the requirement by simply sending in ticket information in electronic form, which isn't as costly as using the eTicket system from the cruiser.

But Cranston Officer Jared Hardy would like to hold onto the system that he demonstrated last week from behind the wheel of his advanced black patrol SUV.

Hardy set up along Garfield Avenue near Texas Roadhouse and quickly spotted an expired inspection sticker on a minivan.

He pulled the woman over. With the laptop computer, he ran her license plate through the system in about 15 seconds.

"All of her information pops up right here," Hardy said.

"There's the VIN number," he added. "It doesn't put in the model number, so we've got to put that in."

Other fields of data are filled in.

"Offense locations are put in — 247 Garfield Ave., that's about where we are," he said.

The front passenger seat of Hardy's cruiser isn't so comfortable for long trips: That's because a printer, encased in metal, has replaced the headrest. It spits out the ticket and Hardy is out the door to hand it off.

The computer has already sent the data to the tribunal. Typically, in the past, departments without eTicket or eCitation sent someone over each week to turn in all the tickets. Staff at the tribunal then processed them.

All of this is automatic now, Guglietta said. No tickets get left in someone's back seat.

Out on Garfield Avenue, Hardy hands out the ticket. The process has taken a little longer than normal because he's been explaining everything.

A few minutes later he pulls over a truck for the same violation. The entire stop takes him seven minutes.

©2016 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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