If you live in Windcrest, a city northeast of San Antonio, the days of getting pulled over by the cops for breaking certain traffic laws — shame on you, but no judgement here — are over. Police will just text you a warning or ticket. And hey, if you’re a good driver, they may even send you a thumbs up.
Windcrest will launch the new Trusted Driver Program on Saturday, which aims to reduce the interaction between police and the public for minor traffic violations. The web-based program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and allows officers to send drivers an SMS message with information on their traffic violation — and fine — if applicable, instead of pulling them over.
Val Garcia, a former San Antonio Police Department officer and CEO of the Trusted Driver Program, told local station KEN5 that the program was not a 100% solution, but it was a “step forward in the right direction.”
“If we minimise those interactions just for minor traffic violations, [police] have more time to dedicate to serious crime like [individuals drinking while intoxicated] that are on the road, reckless drivers, racing,” Garcia said.
Windcrest is the first city to pilot the program, although it might expand to other cities in the future.
Signing up for the free program seems to be straightforward. Drivers in Windcrest must go to the Trusted Driver Program website to create a profile and provide their name, address, vehicle, insurance information, and email address, among others. They can also choose to provide any voluntary disclosures, such as disabilities or medical conditions.
This information, which can include, for example, whether you’re deaf, have PTSD, autism, diabetes, or another physical disability, can be key if officers have no choice but to pull someone over, Garcia explained.
“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 Trusted Driver Program says it will never sell, share, or provide the information that users include in their profiles to any vendor or company.
As explained by KEN5, police using the Trusted Driver Program that witness a minor traffic violation proceed to run your car’s licence plate and confirm you’re the driver. (Users will probably have to upload a picture to the website to enable the latter, but we weren’t able to verify this when we tried to sign up on Friday since the service launches on Saturday).
The officer will then pull up your Trusted Driver Program information and send you a warning or ticket via text. On the flip side, police can also send drivers text messages when they’re doing a good job following traffic laws. (Whether those messages will provoke joy or anxiety before they’re read is not clear yet, because who ever got a text from a cop from doing a good thing?)
Besides doing away with traffic stops, the Trusted Driver Program also lets users pay and manage tickets online. According to the program’s website, users can pay their fines the same day, contest tickets in a “virtual courtroom,” or get a ticket dismissed by taking an online defensive driving course.
Nonetheless, even though police can communicate with you through the program, that doesn’t mean they’re able to track your location. Trusted Driver Program officials also stress that people that sign up for the program aren’t more likely to get traffic tickets. The goal of the program is not to generate revenue, they maintain.
“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,” officials said on the program’s website. “Trusted Driver is not connected to any digital traffic surveillance systems that could increase the likelihood of being fined.”