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Driving scofflaw? Brace for arrival of e-tickets

RCMP, city police prepare to move to modern, efficient system

The two-dimensional bar code identifies you as a driver.

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The two-dimensional bar code identifies you as a driver.

Think police are handing out too many speeding tickets?

Well, boo hoo.

Sgt. Rob Riffel says e-tickets save time and money.

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Sgt. Rob Riffel says e-tickets save time and money. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES)

Even more will be handed out under e-ticketing, the next big thing for police as newer technology moves into the front seat of police cruisers. RCMP in two provinces already issue e-tickets and Mounties in Manitoba will soon follow suit. City police will not be far behind.

Quicker, fewer errors

E-ticketing allows a police officer to automatically swipe data from a driver's licence into an in-car console instead of filling it out by hand.

The only choice the officer makes is picking the applicable act and offence.

Police say e-ticketing reduces error, such as the officer filling out the wrong birthdate.

It's also faster -- one estimate is e-ticketing will reduce by up to 10 minutes the current way of issuing a ticket by hand.

It also eliminates data-entry time in the production of a ticket for court purposes.

Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to get e-ticketing in October 2012.

E-ticketing is currently being rolled out in Saskatchewan. RCMP in New Brunswick and Alberta are also eyeing it.

Winnipeg police central traffic unit Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said e-ticketing will see a police officer swipe a driver's licence card after they pull someone over for speeding or making an illegal turn, instead of filling it out by hand. The one-piece Manitoba driver's licence already has a two-dimensional bar code on the back that contains the same information as the front of the card.

Riffel said after swiping the card through an in-car computer, the officer next selects the offence on the screen. The officer then signs it with an electronic signature. The machine then spits out a printed ticket, saving the police officer about 10 minutes from what currently is a tedious process where mistakes are commonly made.

"It will also help a lot with errors that are made on tickets by officers, like dates," Riffel said. "When you're giving lots of tickets sometimes you'll put in the date of birth for the offence date. That can't happen anymore with e-tickets, so there are less mistakes and it's quicker. The officer doesn't have to do really anything. It'll get the officer out doing more safety (enforcement) quicker."

City police are already handing out more photo-enforcement traffic tickets than they have in the past few years. City police recently released the 2013 numbers on its website. Last year, 74,897 tickets were issued by traffic cameras. The year before, 45,735 tickets were issued. The 2013 increase is due to police last year starting to use vehicle-mounted DragonCam photo-laser speed guns. Officers who use the LIDAR tool (light detection and ranging) can park perpendicular to traffic rather than parallel to it to catch speeders.

Riffel said e-ticketing will also shave days and weeks off processing the ticket, which right now sees clerks inputting ticket information into a database, which is then shared electronically with the traffic court at 373 Broadway. The actual paper tickets also have to be sent by police to 373 Broadway before a driver can pay a fine.

E-tickets cut that weeks-long process to seconds. "Once the ticket is generated, it electronically gets sent to the courts," Riffel said.

What's driving the introduction of e-tickets is a desire by the province to bring the courts into this century, not only to speed up the process, but to save money. The move was recommended by former Manitoba ombudsman Irene Hamilton, who was hired by the province two years ago as director of justice innovation.

The government responded by introducing Bill 38, the Provincial Offences Act and Municipal By-Law Enforcement Act, last spring. It will replace the 50-year-old Summary Convictions Act.

Bill 38, which has not been proclaimed, would allow police to create electronic tickets. It would also allow an enforcement officer to sign a ticket by using an electronic signature and for electronic tickets to be transmitted from a cruiser car to the courts.

The bill also increases the number of set fines under the Highway Traffic Act and other provincial laws so fines can be paid more easily without a court appearance.

Len Eastoe, a former police officer whose company, Traffic Ticket Experts, helps motorists fight their tickets, said he believes e-tickets will make the current system more efficient.

"It's going to make the tickets have less chance for error, for sure," he said. "People will get a more exact ticket and officers will have less work to do. I'm not sure that there are any legalities that are jumping out to me saying, 'Hey, this is a bad thing.' "

Riffel said one thing that won't change under e-ticketing is that, although the technology exists, police officers will not collect fines.

"We would never entertain that kind of transaction," he said. "I don't think we would ever want our officers taking payment just for the appearance and the time it would take."

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