Speeders Pay By Credit in Wisc.

Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Drivers tearing down the interstate in southern Wisconsin shouldn't leave home without their plastic.

State troopers in Kenosha County between Chicago and Milwaukee are packing wireless terminals that allow motorists to pay fines for speeding or other moving violations on the spot with a quick swipe of a credit or debit card. It's the nation's first road test of a technology that's been in stores and restaurants for years.

``You've got to understand the amount of man-hours the county clerk spends sending letters to people who don't appear in court. The postage alone is astronomical,'' said Trooper Keith Wynstra, court officer for Kenosha County. ``If we make them pay on the spot, we're done.''

Officials with MasterCard International Inc. and Elan Merchant Services donated 10 terminals in mid-July to state troopers who patrol the county. The test program is expected to last a year before it expands to the rest of Wisconsin.

One trooper collected $2,000 in fines in three days using the system, Wynstra said.

``We would have had to send 12 to 15 letters to those people,'' he said.

The cigarette carton-sized machines run on an eight-hour battery and send transmissions via cellular frequencies. The terminals come complete with an on-board printer for receipts.

Using either MasterCard or Visa, the wireless transactions take place in a matter of seconds and drivers are credited with paying their fine the next day.

Motorists can still show up in court and recoup any money they win back if their citation is dismissed or reduced.

MasterCard and Elan officials chose Kenosha County after it topped the list of Wisconsin counties where troopers most frequently perform credit card transactions. Heavy traffic that flows through the county was another reason, said Lisa Brzezicki, MasterCard vice president of new markets.

Motorists stopped in Wisconsin have been handing troopers their credit cards to pay fines right away for years, but before the introduction of the wireless terminals, officers had to verbally convey the credit card information to a dispatcher for authorization.

Now, the process is faster, said trooper Jennifer Mutchler. ``It's just like having a computer in your car. We're more self-sufficient,'' she said.

As Wynstra points out, swiping credit cards through a scanner is also safer than radioing-in the credit card information, which exposes drivers' personal information to anyone with a police scanner and invites human error.

A state patrol inspector at the county weigh station was outfitted with a terminal to ease concerns that someone listening in would have access to the credit information of truckers, who sometimes pay as much as $1,400 in weight fines.

``We don't have any more mistakes writing down the numbers,'' Wynstra said. ``It's cleaned up our act. We didn't even know it had to be cleaned up until we started doing this.''


On the Net:

AAA Wisconsin: http://www.aaawisc.com

Wisconsin State Patrol: http://www.dot.state.wi.us/dsp/index.html