By Doug Ireland
---- — Speeders beware! The next traffic ticket you get may come from cyberspace.
Starting Oct. 1, electronic ticketing — or eTickets — will begin in some Southern New Hampshire communities as the state strives to move forward in the Digital Age.
By next summer, the eTicket system will be used in at least 140 Granite State communities, according to Keith Lohmann of the New Hampshire Department of Safety. It’s expected to save time and money, improving efficiency and accuracy in record keeping.
Testing of the system is beginning in Salem, Windham and Pelham. They are the three pilot communities chosen for what’s formally called the Justice-One Network Environment, or J-ONE.
“We are the guinea pigs, for the lack of a better term,” Salem Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten joked. State police have used the system for more than a year.
Patten outlined the system for Salem selectmen earlier this week as they unanimously voted to accept an $11,182 state grant for the project.
Instead of waiting up to 12 minutes for an officer to write up a traffic ticket, it will now take less time, Patten said. He estimates about five minutes.
While that may be good news for impatient motorists, it’s even better news for the police officers issuing the tickets, he said.
That’s because officers assume a great safety risk whenever they have to pull over a motorist they suspect of breaking the law.
Looking down to write a ticket while standing on the side of the road in the dark increases the chance they could be injured in the line of duty, he said.
“It’s an officer safety issue,” he said.
Patten said electronic ticketing will save time and reduce paperwork. Driver’s licenses will be electronically scanned, sending the information to the Police Department and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Courts and other police departments will also have immediate access to that information. Court employees will no longer have to type in information from the approximately 54,000 handwritten traffic summonses issued each year.
The officer can quickly hand the ticket to the driver after printing it in the police cruiser.
The $11,182 New Hampshire Highway Safety grant received by Salem will pay for the scanners and printers needed for a dozen cruisers, Patten said. Windham and Pelham have also been awarded approximately $1,000 for each cruiser, according to Lohmann, the J-ONE program manager.
Salem and Windham have begun testing the system, which was announced by the state this spring. Software glitches have delayed testing in Pelham, but Lohmann and Pelham Police Lt. Brian McCarthy said they expect those to be resolved soon.
Other local police officials praised electronic ticketing.
“I’m all for it,” Plaistow Deputy Police Chief Kathleen Jones said. “I think it will streamline the process so less mistakes are made. It’s going to make it easier for the officers and the people.”
Newton Police Chief Lawrence Streeter agreed.
“It increases the time resource for the officer,” he said. “It will certainly be an advantage. Anything that helps with time is a plus.”