Traffic tickets via text? One Texas city is trying it out
A pilot program hopes to reduce the potential for traffic stops to turn dangerous
By Mariah Rush
The Charlotte Observer
WINDCREST, Texas — In one Texas city, a program is trying to end a common occurrence that has led to tension and violence between police officers and motorists across the country.
The Trusted Driver Program, which will be piloted out of Windcrest, hopes to help eliminate the ability for minor traffic stops to turn violent and improve trust between law enforcement and drivers.
With the new program, police officers will be able to send motorists tickets via text instead of pulling them over.
“It’s not a 100% solution, but it’s a step forward in the right direction,” Val Garcia, president and CEO of the Trusted Driver Program, told KIII-TV.
Garcia, a former San Antonio police officer, hopes the program will be successful.
“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 the news outlet.
Garcia says sometimes a traffic stop is necessary, but other times it isn’t.
“I saw many incidents where officers got themselves in trouble because they initiated a traffic stop,” he told WOAI. “And maybe there was not enough cause for it or there’s not a reason for it, or they just couldn’t back down from it after the stop occurred.”
According to a 2021 report from The New York Times, police officers have killed more than 400 drivers or vehicle passengers who were unarmed and not suspected of a violent crime.
The program hopes to decrease these “potentially dangerous encounters.”
“By minimizing interactions between the police and the public, we create a more inclusive approach to public safety and community-based policing, while treating all with respect, compassion and fairness,” the website says.
Drivers have to sign up for the program, which launched on Jan. 15 in Windcrest, for officers to not pull them over for minor traffic offenses.
First, motorists sign up online, and if an officer scans their license plate, they will see the driver in the Trusted Driver system and text them a warning or citation if it applies.
You can also share on your Trusted Driver profile if you have any conditions or disabilities that should be noted.
“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,” Garcia told KIII-TV. “It really gives an officer information faster in the field to handle a traffic stop if it does occur and be able to deescalate.”
If drivers want to contest the ticket, they can handle it online instead of in court.
“Removing non-criminal violations from minor traffic stops frees up resources and time for more pressing cases and public threats,” the website says.
Additionally, drivers can receive positive feedback.
“For the first time ever, drivers can receive positive feedback from law enforcement without going through a traffic stop,” according to the Trust Driver website.
Garcia is confident that Windcrest, which is about 12 miles northeast of San Antonio, is a good place to start the program.
“I think the city leaders here including the police chief are innovative and were willing to lead the charge,” he told WOAI. “The way Windcrest sits within Bexar County and borders San Antonio, and it’s so close to the highway. It really was a perfect launching place for us because it gave us a huge amount of variety of traffic that traverses the city.”
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