High tech has come calling to the process of paying traffic citations. Some may not like it, but in the end it’s going to make the chore of paying a traffic fine, or setting up a court date, quicker and more convenient.
Court systems around the country at the state, county and local levels are making good use of the power of the Web in this way. Many cities and counties in states like California, Florida and New Jersey have online traffic ticket payment systems in place. Now, Cook County, IL
(which comprises the city of Chicago and its surrounding close suburbs), has joined them to do business with their own online traffic ticket payment system.
Last summer, the Honorable Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, was joined by Mary Clark, director of Traffic Safety at Northwestern University; Ron Fisher, deputy director of the Center for Public Safety; and representatives of Cook County law enforcement agencies from Chicago, Bellwood, Berwyn, Chicago Heights, Forest Park, Flossmoor, Hoffman Estates, Matteson, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and the Illinois State Police, to publicly announce that the fully integrated Online Traffic Ticket System (OTTS) in Illinois was up and running on the Clerk’s Office Web site. The OTTS enables individuals to plead and pay for traffic tickets online, schedule a court date, or sign up for traffic safety school.
“This new service is a special convenience for the citizens of Cook County,” said Clerk Brown in writing. “It enables individuals to rapidly and conveniently respond to their traffic violations and, if they so choose, pay associated fines and other charges safely and securely on their home computers. Brown continued: “Online Traffic Ticket System offers solutions for the usual problems associated with handling one’s traffic citations. It’s a time saver for busy people, and the ability to use a credit card may help them manage payment more effectively.”
This reporter caught up with Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown recently to ask her some questions about the new online system. PSIT: When did the Web site launch and how long did it take to develop? DB: We soft launched the Online Traffic Ticket System (OTTS) on our Web site, www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org, on June 29, 2009. The system took approximately 16 months for our Management Information Systems (MIS) team to develop. We held a press conference and hard launched the OTTS on July 23, 2009. PSIT: How have users received it so far? DB: The public has been very receptive to the ability to process their Court Diversion traffic tickets online. Within the first 30 minutes of our soft launch, our office experienced three completed OTTS transactions. This occurred even though there was no public announcement of the service. Currently, our office averages approximately 70 completed OTTS transactions per day. PSIT: Did you model the online system on any other system?
DB: Although there are certain functions that are standard to any e-commerce application, our system was developed based on our business processes and the requirements of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC). PSIT: Is it run by Cook County’s own server or an outside server? DB: The application and data reside on the Cook County Clerk’s Office’s servers. PSIT: What have been the issues for managing the site? DB: One of our identified requirements was the need for an administrative application that helps our staff manage the transactions conducted through the OTTS. This application allows our staff to see how customers are searching for their tickets and monitor these transactions as they proceed through the system. PSIT: Do you have any tips for other agencies/counties who might be thinking of starting an online system? DB: We suggest that agencies that are considering starting an online traffic ticket system look at their current “as is” process for handling traffic tickets and think about how that process can be improved through automation that allows customers to “self-service” the processing of their own tickets. Also, it is important to include best practices for e-commerce Web applications and keep the user interface simple and easy to use.
According to Jalyne Strong-Shaw, chief deputy clerk of Public Information, this project will allow people with Cook County traffic violations to conduct the following three activities at the Clerk’s Office Web site: enter a plea of guilty and pay the fine; enter a plea of guilty, register for traffic safety school, and pay the fine and registration fee; or enter a plea of not guilty and request and receive a court hearing date. The Court Diversion violations that can be handled through the system are as follows: failure to wear seat belt; front/side windshield obstructed; speeding; failure to stop at stop sign; u-turn in the intersection; disobey turn signal indicator; failure to yield to pedestrian in cross walk; improper right turn; turns on red prohibited; and no turn signs.
According to Brown, the OTTS was “designed in-house by the Clerk’s Office; the system was no cost to the County.” Furthermore, “the project was designed to enhance the Clerk’s Office’s operations by reducing courthouse traffic congestion and decreasing administrative and operational traffic citation processing and storage expenses.” Brown indicated that this is one of the first Cook County agencies to accept payments of fines and costs by credit card.
“The OTTS is part of a series of Green Court/E-Court initiatives, all of which save taxpayers money, save time for court users, cut costs for the court system, and conserve energy by reducing the impact on the environment,” Brown stated. By paying traffic tickets online, you can take satisfaction in knowing you are not only getting with the times, but you are also helping the environment. Tim Burke is a freelance writer and also an editor, designer and photographer who lives and works in Skokie, IL. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.