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December 15, 2014 Published in Traffic & Transportation

State Troopers In Maryland And Virginia Issued 1.2 Million Traffic Tickets In 2013, Proving Traffic Stops Are Still Extant

Combined, State Troopers in Maryland and Virginia handed down 1,244,121 traffic citations and summons during traffic stops in their respective states in 2013, an analysis by AAA Mid-Atlantic reveals. Virginia courts are hearing 1.6 million traffic ticket cases per year, and traffic arrests are still taking place in Washington, D. C., and traffic tickets are evolving in Maryland. Motorists in Maryland  face even greater odds of getting a high-tech E-citation from a police officer than an automated traffic enforcement ticket captured by robotic speed cameras and red-light cameras. Police officers pull over nearly a million motorists in Maryland, on average each year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of moving violations spun out by the statewide Electronic Traffic Information Exchange system.

In 2013, the Maryland State Police, which implemented the system, issued 613,972 traffic enforcement citations and warrants. Maryland State Trooper issued 665,176 traffic enforcement citations and warnings, and 16,550 citations for driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license in 2012. Perhaps the high-water mark in written citations in Maryland was 2011, the year that police officers conducted 927,426 traffic stops across Maryland, according to data from the Maryland State Police. All told, 4,412 police officers, including 916 Maryland State Troopers, issued 652,132 citations for 1,402,070 separate charges in 2011 while utilizing the new statewide E-TIX system. Those traffic stops generated $60,315,269 in traffic fines.

In 2013, Virginia State Troopers assigned to the Bureau of Field Operations issued 630,149 traffic summons and arrests, including 185,854 for speeding, 68,872 for reckless driving, and 5,071 for driving under the influence, according to the Virginia State Police’s 2013 Facts And Figures Report. In 2012, Virginia State Troopers issued 598,889 traffic summons and arrests, including 179,421 for speeding, 73,996 for reckless driving, and 5,295 for driving under the influence. State courts in Virginia handled 1,631,762 traffic tickets cases in 2009 and 1,606,038 traffic tickets cases in 2010, according to reports by the Court Statistics Project.

“Many motorists may wrongly assume that ‘police stops’ are a thing of the past with the greater emphasis on automated traffic enforcement through the use of red-light cameras and speed cameras,” noted John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Unlike, automated enforcement traffic tickets, traffic stops can result, depending upon the severity of the infraction, in demerit points against your driving record, an increase in insurance premiums, and, in some cases, hundreds of dollars in fines and fees, once the officer punches your name  into the computer. What’s more, the flash and flicker of the police cruiser’s  emergency lights and the blare of the police siren during a moving violation are more apt to modify unlawful driving behaviors than mechanized traffic tickets that come in the mail a week or two later.”

Although the District issued nearly 2.5 million tickets last year (the FY13 tally includes 581,951 speed camera tickets, 84,283 red-light camera tickets, plus 1,808,587 parking tickets), other handwritten tickets and traffic stops are still extant in the city. In 2013, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested 4,656 persons for traffic violations during police patrols, compared to arresting 5,684 persons during traffic stops in 2012. That’s according to the MPD’s 2013 Annual Report. The MPD also issued 12,893 traffic citations (non-photo) in 2013 for violation including distracted driving (7,621 tickets), for seat-belt/child restraint violations (4,734), and for egregious speeding (538). In 2012, MPD officers issued 14,017 non-photo traffic citations, such as distracted driving (8,501), seat-belt/child restraint violations (4,855), and egregious speeding (661). In addition, traffic control officers (TCOs) wrote 224,445, as of June 30 of FY13. On top of that, TCOs issued 220,728 citations in FY12.

During 2013, law enforcement agencies in Prince George’s County pulled over 95,000 motorists in traffic stops and police officers in patrol vehicles in Montgomery County carried out 81,000 traffic stops. That’s according to the Maryland’s Statistical Analysis Center’s (MSAC) 2013 Traffic Stop Data report. However, the number of citations issued during those traffic stops was not reported. Only a third of traffic stops in the state results in an actual written citation, explains Jeffrey Zuback, the Director of the Maryland Statistical AnalysisCenter, which tracks the data for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention. Nearly half - 50 percent - of reported traffic stops in the state of Maryland result  in written or verbal warnings to the motorists, 32 percent result in citations, 11 percent end with issuing vehicle safety device repair orders,  two percent result in traffic arrests, the reason for the traffic stop was not reported in the residue.

In the six month period between July 1, 2011 and Dec.31, 2011, Maryland police departments and sheriffs’ offices reported “544,812 law eligible traffic stops,” the MSAC’s 2012 Traffic Stop Report reveals. Yet the MSAC report  does not include  traffic stops generated from the use of radar or laser guns, by VASCAR  technology, or by license plate recognition readers deployed by the 127 police departments and sheriff’s offices reporting the traffic stop data. Nor does it include traffic stops at checkpoints, roadblocks, or stops of multiple vehicles after an accident or emergency.

Ticketed in three minutes. Like the Dodo bird and the Dinosaur, traffic tickets written on a piece of carbon paper are fading away in Maryland. Once the City of Rockville deployed the E-TIX system, the overall number of traffic citations for moving violations increased 205 percent between FY10 and FY12, an analysis by AAA Mid-Atlantic reveals. That figure does not include red-light or speed camera photo enforcement citations issued. During the initial start-up phase for Rockville’s E-TIX program, city police officers were “required to write 50 warnings each,” Rockville budget officials say.

The sheer number of traffic enforcement citations (non-photo) skyrocketed in Rockville, in the period between FY10 and FY12, before drastically declining in FY13, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. City police issued nearly 33,000 traffic tickets in FY12, compared to just shy of 11,000 traffic citations in FY10. However, during the last fiscal year, Rockville saw a big drop in the number of electronically issued citations. The total plummeted 54 percent from 32,788 in FY12 to 15,063 E-Tix in FY13. “In FY 2013, the number of traffic enforcement citations returned to trending average,” budget officials say.

The Gaithersburg Police issued 8,211 traffic citations and 4,754 warnings to motorists in traffic stops in 2013, compared to 10,670 traffic citations in 2012.  In 2013, the city of Laurel Police Department issued 6,267 traffic citations, in contrast to 8,467  moving violations tickets, 3,808 warnings, and 1,110 Safety Equipment Repair Orders (SEROs) in 2012. Traffic forces issued 9,596 tickets, 3,633 warnings, plus 1,369 SEROs in 2011.

The handwritten traffic citation is becoming a relic of the past. As of last year, 77 agencies were “using E-Tix and another 10 are in the process of implementing the technology,” notes the Maryland State Police. The E-Tix system empowers officers to quickly glean more information about the driving records of motorists, including “hot list” checks for outstanding warrants, during the traffic stops. To many drivers, this raises the specter or concerns about privacy, ticket quotas, racial profiling, and Orwellian data retention fears, cautions Townsend. Under a 2007 Maryland law, violators no longer have to personally sign traffic tickets.

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