Central Texas police will begin texting tickets and fines

Image for article titled For drivers in this Texas town, the days of cops being pulled over are over

Photo: Fiona Goodall (Getty Images)

If you live in Windcrest, a town northeast of San Antonio, the days you get pulled over by the cops for violating certain the rules of the road – shame on you, but no judgment here – are over. The police will simply send you a warning or a ticket. And hey, if you’re a good driver, they can even give you a boost.

Windcrest will launch the new Trusted Driver Program on Saturdays, which aims to reduce the interaction between the police and the public for minor traffic offences. The web-based program is the first of its kind in the United States and allows officers to send drivers an SMS message with information about their traffic violation – and fine – if any, instead of stopping them .

Val Garcia, a former San Antonio Police Department officer and CEO of the Trusted Driver program, said local station KEN5 that the program was not a 100% solution, but that it was a “step forward in the right direction.”

“If we minimize these interactions only for minor traffic violations, [police] have more time to devote to serious crimes such as [individuals drinking while intoxicated] who are on the road, reckless drivers, racing,” Garcia said.

Windcrest is the first city to pilot the program, although it could expand to other cities in the future.

Signing up for the free program seems to be straightforward. Windcrest drivers should go to the Trusted Driver program website create a profile and provide their name, address, vehicle, insurance information and email address, among others. They may also choose to provide voluntary disclosures, such as disabilities or medical conditions.

This information, which may include, for example, whether you are deaf, has PTSD, autism, diabetes or another physical disability, may be essential if officers have no choice but to stop someone, explained Garcia.

“It really gives an officer faster information on the ground to handle a traffic stop if it happens and be able to defuse,” Garcia said.

The Trusted Driver Program says it will never sell, share or provide the information users include in their profiles to any vendor or company.

Like explained by KEN5, the police using the Trusted Driver Program who witness a minor traffic violation check your car’s license plate and confirm that you are the driver. (Users will likely need to upload an image to the website to activate the latter, but we couldn’t verify this when we tried to sign up on Friday since the service launches on Saturday).

The agent will then display your trusted driver program information and send you a warning or a ticket by text message. On the other hand, the police can also text drivers when they are doing a good job in respecting the rules of the road. (It’s not yet clear whether these messages will cause joy or anxiety before they’re read, because who’s ever been texted by a cop after doing a good thing?)

In addition to removing traffic stops, the Trusted Driver program also allows users to pay and manage ticketsc online. According to program website, users can pay their fines the same day, finess in a “virtual courtroom” or have a ticket dismissed by taking an online defensive driving course.

However, even though the police may communicate with you through the program, it does not mean that they can track your location. Officials of the Trusted Driver program also point out that people who sign up for the program are not more likely to get traffic tickets. The purpose of the program is not to generate revenue, they argue.

“Being a member means that you actively improve transport safety through safer digital dialogue. Additionally, the electronics quoteIons are only issued by officers who witness a minor violation,” officials said on the program’s website. “Trusted Driver is not connected to any digital traffic monitoring system which could increase the likelihood of a fine.”

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