Washington SECTOR a ‘Post Office for Traffic Data’

E-newsletter Issue #79 | September 29, 2011

The state of Washington issues more than 1 million tickets and more than 150,000 vehicle collision reports and other related forms each year.

All that work used to be completed by hand, according to Pat Ramsdell, the Applications Support manager of the Information Technology Division at the Washington State Patrol. In addition to manually copying information to paper forms, that data would have to be entered into computer systems as many as four different times.

Then Washington launched Statewide Electronic Collision & Ticket Online Records—or SECTOR—program, an electronic application for creating and routing tickets and accident reports. The program runs on users’ laptops and formats the data entered so that it can then be sent to the Justice Information Network Data Exchange switch, a sophisticated tool that uses standards developed by the Department of Justice to route data.

In simpler terms, Ramsdell said, the new software tools “function like a post office for traffic data.”

The system then delivers that data in a recognizable format to computer systems of the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Department of Licensing, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Law Enforcement Agency RMS System as needed based on software rules, thus eliminating the repetitive data entry.

The SECTOR client-server software is part of E-TRIP, or Electronic Traffic Information Processing, an electronic ecosystem for traffic data. E-TRIP began as E-Citations, but the Traffic Records Committee decided to expand the scope to other related forms beyond just citations, creating a much more integrated system that has been key to the program’s overall success.

“By creating this network, we were able to save countless hours of data entry, which translates into less taxpayer money having to be spent on staff time,” Ramsdell said.

This is significant because, statistically, 10 to 15 percent of paper tickets have significant errors and 11 percent of paper collision reports must be returned to officers for corrections, Ramsdell said.  

“We’ve really been able to reduce the number of human errors that come from all the repetitive, manual data entry,” she said. 

SECTOR uses bar codes on driver’s licenses to auto-complete the electronic forms, further reducing the possibility of human error for data entry and the amount of time an officer has to spend filling out paperwork.

The system can function instantaneously.  

“Many patrol cars are able to process the forms immediately, sending in a ticket or collision report via wireless data-enabled laptops,” Ramsdell said. This allows the reports to be quickly sent through the SECTOR system and then electronically distributed to the appropriate state agencies. Officers without that wireless capability can upload all data as soon as they return to their offices.

For added convenience, when officers sync data, the system downloads any general software updates, making the software virtually maintenance-free. The automatic syncs also add any updated Washington laws, local municipal codes, and even new vehicle makes and models.  

“This new technology has really transformed the way we work,” said Ramsdell. “The volume of data this office handles is quite large and having an interconnected and seamless electronic system has made us much more efficient.”

According to Ramsdell, SECTOR has been a “very powerful tool.” While the state doesn’t require local agencies to use the new software, which the state provides free of charge, more than 2,000 officers representing 168 law enforcement agencies have already begun using it, as do 133 of 169 district and municipal courts.

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