- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s state troopers are as tired of writing speeding tickets as drivers are of getting them — and officers are trying to persuade lawmakers to permit technology that would allow them to hand out tickets more efficiently.

Maryland State Police officials and some judges yesterday urged lawmakers to join states such as New York, California and Michigan that have some form of electronic citations. Instead of getting a carbon-copy ticket filled out by an officer, errant drivers would see officers using wireless hand-held devices to print out a ticket.

Advocates said courts could trim the number of employees who retype ticket information into computers, and officers would spend less time writing tickets. Instead of copying down names and addresses from driver’s licenses, officers would simply scan a bar code already on the licenses, and the computer would do the rest.

“We think that this is something that is very important,” said Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland. He pitched the idea to a Maryland Senate committee yesterday and will talk to House members about the plan next week.

“It’s trying to come into the 21st century by automation,” said Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Prince George’s Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee.

Electronic tickets are used in at least a dozen states and the Prince George’s County town of Berwyn Heights.

The plan outlined yesterday would phase in the electronic tickets beginning with state troopers, allowing local police to use them later if they wish. At first, the electronic system would be used only for warnings, to give drivers a chance to get used to them. Officers would continue to carry paper tickets for drivers who do not carry a license.

The change would cost at least $250,000 to start, Judge Clyburn said, but the state would ultimately save money by reducing data-entry employees and the cost of shipping tickets from police stations to court offices.

Judge Clyburn and state police are asking lawmakers to approve a system by which ticketed drivers wouldn’t have to sign for their tickets, although they would be given a paper printout.

If lawmakers aren’t comfortable doing away with signatures, they could approve a system requiring electronic signatures similar to the ones used to deliver packages — though supporters argued that such signatures aren’t of much use to the courts and that arguments with drivers often erupt because people sometimes think signing a ticket means they’ve admitted guilt.

Secretary of State Police Col. Thomas E. “Tim” Hutchins, told lawmakers that 25 percent of police-officer injuries come while they’re on the side of the road writing tickets, so any reduction in the time that takes would be a plus. He also said traffic congestion would lessen.

“The less time we spend on the side of the road, with a violator … the better off they are,” he said.

Col. Hutchins said officers would welcome electronic tickets as an improvement over carbon-copy handwritten tickets. “You don’t have to stand there in the rain trying to get a signature as ink runs all over the place,” he said.

No bill has been introduced on the electronic citation plan, but supporters said they expected lawmakers to embrace the idea.

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