Local police officers say they eagerly await the day — perhaps in the not too distant future — when they’ll have a high-tech way to write tickets faster.
E-ticketing isn’t available in Manitoba yet, but local police say they like the idea.
"It’s something that we would certainly welcome," said Brandon Police Service Sgt. Kevin Loewen, who heads the force’s traffic section.
"We would certainly support it and we would certainly pursue it."
Brandon RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Zens also likes the sound of e-tickets. It seems like it will save time and reduce mistakes.
"If we can minimize those and increase the amount of road time we’re actually out patrolling, as opposed to sitting on the side of the highway writing out the ticket, that’s going to be a very good thing for us," Zens said.
RCMP in Saskatchewan and Alberta have been testing the e-ticketing system already.
Police will be able to swipe a driver’s licence to download information, and print a ticket instead of filling one out by hand.
The one-piece Manitoba licence already has a bar code that contains the same information as that printed on the front.
Otherwise, how exactly e-ticketing would work isn’t clear yet. Bill 38 — the law that would allow such e-tickets — hasn’t been proclaimed. There’s no timeline for that to be done, let alone one for when e-ticketing would be available.
However, Loewen expects that an officer will be able to swipe a driver’s licence via their in-car computer.
Details such as the driver’s name and date of birth would be autofilled into a computer form, and the police officer would then be able to pick the relevant offence. The officer will be able to make their signature electronically and print the ticket for the driver.
Loewen estimates that the automation would cut a roadside stop in half. Perhaps from 10 minutes to five minutes for a simple infraction.
It will also help keep officers safe.
With traffic stops, officers don’t know what situation they’re getting into when they pull a vehicle over, or who they’re pulling over.
Instead of having their head down to handwrite a ticket, a quick electronic autofill feature will allow the officer to watch what’s happening around them.
"It allows the officer to be a lot more aware of their surroundings while the ticket is being prepared," Loewen said.
The real savings in time would be at the police station, he said.
Currently, a copy of a traffic ticket written by a city police officer is handed to a supervisor who forwards it with the day’s paperwork to clerical staff to enter it into the in-house database so police have their own record.
A BPS officer then takes the tickets to the Brandon courthouse and they’re sent by internal mail the same day to the provincial court office in Winnipeg. There, they’re scanned and the information is entered on computer so it’s electronically accessible to all Manitoba court staff, including those in Brandon.
To allow all this to happen, it’s 20 days before a ticket recipient can respond, by either pleading guilty and paying the fine or by receiving a court date to fight it.
With e-ticketing, however, the whole data entry process would be cut down from days or weeks, to minutes or moments.
When an officer reaches the station the ticket information could be downloaded wirelessly from the squad car to a database accessible by court staff.
"It’s exceptionally efficient," Loewen said.
Tickets will also be easier to read and less likely to have mistakes that can result in them being thrown out.
Loewen noted that BPS cars already come with laptops, so much of the system for e-ticketing is in place.
A printer and appropriate software would be needed, but it’s not clear at this point whether it’s the province or police force that would pay the bill for any software or equipment required.
Loewen said cost would be the main potential obstacle to the BPS jumping on board with e-ticketing from the moment it’s available.
Zens said RCMP can already scan licences, but specialized printers would be needed.
Loewen said — unlike a fully automated system like photoradar, or red light cameras — a quick e-ticket system doesn’t necessarily mean there’ll be a big spike in the number of tickets written.
For a start, the number of tickets written depends on how many drivers break the law.
Unlike automated systems, an officer still needs to observe a potential infraction and decide if a ticket is warranted.
E-ticketing, however, may allow officers to move on to other duties faster.
The speed with which it can produce a ticket also has a bright side for offenders, Loewen said.
"It also frees up the unfortunate recipient to get on their way."