June 29, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
Maryland drivers will get speeding tickets and other citations faster than ever thanks to an electronic traffic information exchange (E-TIX) program implemented by the state police. With the simple scan of a driver's license bar code, police officers populate electronic citation forms on a laptop in the squad car. The officer selects the violations, prints the ticket, gives it to the driver and they both go their ways.
The process significantly reduces the time it takes an officer to complete a ticket or warning. It also improves the safety of drivers and officers because they get off the shoulder or roadside more quickly. And less paper is used by police departments and the District Court of Maryland system.
E-TIX was developed in-house by Cpl. Chris Corea of the Maryland State Police. Development began in September 2006, and Corea said implementation took about 18 months. The program is available to all Maryland police departments for free, but the departments must provide the necessary equipment, which includes a bar-code scanner, thermal printer, laptop and Wi-Fi connection. As of March 2009, Corea said nearly 35 Maryland police departments were using the technology.
Corea said it cost $300,000 to $400,000 to outfit the state police's vehicles with the necessary hardware. Much of that was covered by grants from the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority.
One of the main barriers to launching E-TIX was that state laws weren't conducive to a seamless electronic ticketing process. According to Corea, there were three obstacles:
Getting the law changed so more than one citation could be on a piece of paper was a huge feat, said Corea. "We were able to get the laws changed so that as long as we have a citation number -- a control number -- per charge, we could do more than one per piece of paper," he explained.
The state police also had to complete a certification process with the District Court before it was allowed to electronically send information to the court system. Corea said the state police sent about 300 different test cases, and the court checked the data by running it through its system to ensure it worked correctly. In March 2008, the District Court granted the state police certification to issue electronic citations.
A bar-code scanner retrieves information on a driver's license from the two-dimensional bar code -- what looks like a scrambled box -- and inputs it into the E-TIX system. The information populates the traffic-violations form so the police officer doesn't have to manually fill out a citation or warning. The officer then selects the proper violations on-screen.
Corea said the main driver for the project was officer safety. "It was not to generate more funding, and it wasn't to increase statistics or traffic stops or anything like that," he said. "Because I was an officer and I'm a state trooper, I had the perspective of an officer when I built it, so it was an officer-safety issue."
E-TIX speeds up the citation process and gets the officer and violator off the side of the road faster. Corea said completing tickets took eight to 10 minutes per citation using the old process. If the person had three violations, it could take 30 minutes. The new system has reduced