- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

RICHMOND — Getting a traffic ticket while on vacation is bad enough. At least Virginia Beach has made settling those tickets a little easier by becoming the state’s first locality to allow citations to be prepaid via the Internet.

With help from the Virginia Supreme Court and VIPNet, the state agency that puts governmental functions online, the state’s No. 1 beachfront vacation venue is the pilot site for the ETicket project.

Eventually, VIPNet hopes to make online prepayment for traffic violations and related offenses an option statewide, said agency spokeswoman Tracy Smith.

Paying online doesn’t make the tickets any less costly, Miss Smith said. The court costs and other related fees still apply. The advantage is convenience and reliability.

“You can pay any time from anywhere and not have to worry about it getting lost in the mail,” Miss Smith said. “You mail in a ticket and what you might think would take overnight can sometimes take a week. This way, you don’t have to worry about late fees.”

Ninety tickets were paid online in the first three weeks of the project, Miss Smith said.

Online prepayment won’t get you out of a court date for more serious citations such as reckless or drunken driving.

ETicket provides a secure online site for using a credit card to waive a court appearance and prepay tickets for offenses such as speeding, failure to yield, seat-belt violations, expired inspection stickers or license tags, public drunkenness, disturbing the peace, riding an animal on the highway at night and begging. Prepayment must be made at least five days before the court date listed on the summons.

Online payment is accessible through the Virginia Judicial System home page or by accessing the ETickets section of the Virginia Beach municipal Web site.

The service is part of a statewide effort to cut costs by automating governmental service.

Virginia Beach issues about 59,000 citations a year, and about half of them are prepayable, said Brandy Dowdy, the assistant clerk of Virginia Beach General District Court. The bulk of the tickets are issued in the summer, with beach season in full swing.

Online prepayment can reduce waiting lines and lighten the court’s summer workload, Miss Dowdy said.

“We’re totally excited about it. We’ve been asking for this for a long time,” she said.

“A lot of the people who get tickets down here are Internet people. They want to do everything online,” she said. “In tourist season, this allows a person to not be concerned with having to come back down here or having to get through to us on the telephone, because the phones are constantly busy.”

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