Enforcing traffic regulations just got a whole lot easier for the Oregon Department of Transportation's Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Officers no longer have to stand on the side of the road while writing citations by hand--a process that was not only time-consuming and prone to mistakes, but also dangerous.
"A lot of citations are dismissed as a result of officer error," explains Steve Vitolo, program manager, statewide law enforcement and judicial programs. "There were issues with illegible handwriting. Sometimes the defendant couldn't read the court date, or a number or letter was transposed."
Officers also had to spend additional time ensuring that the ink passed through all five copies of the paper citation so that each copy was legible. "Once you issue a citation, you can't change it," says Vitolo. Redundant data presented another opportunity to introduce errors. Each agency -- from the police department, to the court, to the DMV -- had to reenter data manually from their paper copy.
To streamline the process of issuing citations, Oregon DOT implemented PocketCitation software from Advanced Public Safety (APS). The application populates the agency's ticketing form with data from the violator's driver's license or an officer's query to the FBI's National Crime Information Center or state motor vehicle bureau.
Using Intermec CN3 mobile computers, the officer selects the applicable violation from a drop-down menu on the screen, and the statute number, fine amount and court information is automatically entered on the ticket. The ticket is then printed out using a Bluetooth-enabled Zebra RW 420 mobile printer. At the end of the shift, the officers dock their computers to upload the e-citation data into a centralized computer system, thereby eliminating manual data entry. Now, all agencies have almost-real-time access to citations in PDF, complete with electronic signatures.
Currently, about 140 officers are using the system. Vitolo, who is also a deputy sheriff, has experienced the benefits firsthand. "I'm clearing traffic stops in four minutes from the time of the stop to citation issuance," he says. "Compared to standard stops, I'm saving six to eight minutes per stop."
Vitolo estimates a 40% increase in traffic citations; however, he emphasizes that the motivation for implementing PocketCitation is not to generate revenue, he notes. "We're focused on how many traffic violators we can affect for hazardous moving violations."
Eliminating manual data entry has been a major timesaver. "It took data entry clerks six minutes to enter a citation," says Vitolo. "Multiply that at the court, and that's 12 minutes. Then take into account the six or seven minutes officers save on a traffic stop, and that's about 18 minutes saved per citation."
The reduction in time spent writing tickets has also increased officer safety. "Traffic stops are one of the most dangerous situations officers face," says Vitolo. "That's not just as a result of interacting with the driver but also being on the side of the road where you can be hit by a car."
Officers get a better response from drivers when they are able to issue a ticket quickly. "Before drivers have a chance to get upset, they've already been issued a ticket, and they're on their way before they can process what's happened," says Vitolo. "It makes for a better experience, which also reduces potential officer injury."