While traffic stops are a dreaded encounter with law enforcement for many citizens, they generally only lead to a punishment of inconvenience: a fine, an increase in insurance premiums or a defensive driving course. For officers, however, traffic stops can be deadly.
When an officer issues a citation, in most circumstances, he is required to exit his vehicle and stand on the roadside. This puts the individual at risk for being hit by a passing vehicle or harmed in other ways.
In the past decade, more than 120 officers died or were killed after being struck by a vehicle during a routine traffic stop. The longer an officer stands on the roadside, the higher the risk of being injured or killed during the ticketing process.
However, one agency has greatly reduced the amount of time officers spend on the roadside through the use of technological tools that increase efficiency during the citation process.
Officers with the Grand Prairie Police Dept. in Texas used to spend up to 10 minutes on the roadside issuing each citation.
"Numerous officers are injured on the roadside during the ticketing process," Sergeant Eric Hansen of the Grand Prairie PD said. "The longer an officer has to stand there and fill out forms to issue the citation, the higher the risk is of being struck by another vehicle."
Now that the Grand Prairie PD automated its citation processes, time officers spend on the roadside has reduced by 50 percent on average and is down to three minutes for the most experienced officers.
"When we were using paper copies of tickets, officers had to use a small ticket book and fill out a form while simultaneously paying attention to the surrounding area," Hansen said. "An officer doesn't want to walk back and forth on the highway when filling out a citation because that's when accidents happen."
In addition to reducing the time spent on the roadside, officer safety is also enhanced with the ability to view active warrants using their ticket readers.
When an officer initiates a traffic stop and scans a driver's license, any active warrant will be displayed. In the event that a warrant indicates a violent crime or potential for a dangerous reaction, officers can call for backup.
"It's helpful to know when we are dealing with a wanted individual," Hansen said. "If we need more information, we can quickly ask dispatch to run a search. Any information you have on the roadside about an individual who was pulled over helps keep officers safer. After all, you never know who you might be pulling over."
In addition to officer safety, electronic ticketing helps officers save time as they aren't required to go to court for pre-trial events when an individual decides to dispute a citation.
"Brazos allows officers to take photos and leave voice notes, which aids prosecutors and often keeps the officer from having to go to the discovery docket and pre-trial docket," Hansen said.
With electronic ticketing, officers in Grand Prairie scan a driver's license and registration form so that pertinent information from the documents is auto-populated into the citation. Information uploaded is accurate and legible, which reduces the opportunity for disputes in court.
"With electronic ticketing, we're able to give citizens a legible ticket that leaves no room for error," Hansen said. "They have all the information and evidence that they need regarding the traffic stop, and if they want to call the court to deal with the ticket, they have what they need to do so."
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