A local Texas police department’s new program aims to cut down on traffic stops for minor infarctions by instead sending tickets or warnings via text message.
Police in Windcrest — a city near San Antonio in Bexar County — will be the first in the nation to implement the Trusted Driver Program, which allows drivers to register their vehicles and create an online profile that law enforcement can access so they won’t have to make unnecessary traffic stops for minor violations.
When a “trusted driver” does commit a minor traffic violation, an officer will run the car’s license plate and verify that they are in the system. They will then send a text warning or citation to the phone listed on the person’s profile.
“The cell phone has to be hands-free and mounted on your car, and by transportation code, you’re allowed to respond to a notification — just like an AMBER alert,” said Val Garcia, CEO of the program and former San Antonio police officer.
“It’s not a 100% solution, but it’s a step forward in the right direction,” Garcia said.
People who opt in to the program can avoid getting pulled over by police or having to show up in court for a minor traffic violation. Instead, everything is conducted virtually. This way, police can focus their attention on more serious traffic crimes, and drivers can avoid the anxiety and stress of having to deal with a police officer during a stop.
“If we minimize those interactions just for minor traffic violations, they have more time to dedicate to serious crime like DWI’s that are on the road, reckless drivers, racing,” Garcia told KENS5.
Garcia explained that the program would be especially important for those who may have health problems that are difficult to communicate to the police in the event of a traffic stop.
“If you’re deaf, if you have PTSD, autism, a medical condition like diabetes or a physical disability, but you’re still allowed to drive. It really gives an officer information faster in the field to handle a traffic stop if it does occur and be able to deescalate,” Garcia said.
The Windcrest Police Department is excited to be the first in the country to make use of the program.
“We’re very proud…We hope that we have a lot of participation,” Captain Jimmie Cole said. “I do believe it’s probably something that’s going to spread probably entirely across the nation.”
Cole said the program would also allow police to interact with trusted drivers beyond issuing tickets, including notifying them when a tail-light is broken or sending positive messages to drivers who obey the law.
According to the Trusted Driver Program website, police cannot track members’ locations. The program also does not mean that members are more likely to get tickets.
“Being a member means you are actively improving transport safety through a safer, digital dialogue. Additionally, electronic citations are only issued by officers who witness a minor violation. Trusted Driver is not connected to any digital traffic surveillance systems that could increase the likelihood of being fined,” the website reads.