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Transforming traditional traffic stops | New program would send citations via text message

The Trusted Driver program allows drivers to sign up for a voluntary program to avoid traffic stops for minor traffic violations.

HOUSTON — Pulling a driver over used to be the only option, but a new program being piloted outside of San Antonio hopes to transform the traditional traffic stop.

It's called Trusted Driver.

"We're just giving another option to motorists and another tool to officers to help keep themselves safe and help keep the public safe," Trusted Driver CEO Val Garcia said.

Garcia is a retired San Antonio police officer who said the idea was born out of recent tragedies.

"With different situations that were happening across the country, like George Floyd, and of course, some other instances like Philando Castile and Sandra Bland, it brought the topic up again," Garcia said.

You can choose to enroll in the program, much like TSA Pre-check when you fly. But this program is free for drivers.

"You can enter a disability you have, a medical condition, any other disability, somebody who is deaf, somebody who has PTSD, somebody who is diabetic, somebody who has autism," Garcia said.

"If you don't necessarily have to walk up on an unknown situation in a vehicle, it puts the driver at ease, it puts the police officers at ease," Windcrest Police Department Lt. Benjamin Crum said.

It's the first agency to pilot the program, but it's only for certain offenses.

"This is for anything in the Texas Transportation Code, which is punishable by a fine only," Crum said. "Speeding, fail to stop at a stop sign, lighting issues on a vehicle."

Houston attorney Paul Kubosh said it will not be free of legal challenges.

"There's no way that would hold up in court," Kubosh, who made a career out of fighting traffic tickets, said. "If I get a text message or my wife gets a text message, asking did you just run that red light, my wife could hit yes for me."

Garcia said his team has worked to close the loopholes.

"Our process does not remove the officer from the equation, it's not an automated system like a red light traffic program or a speed camera program that's completely automated," Garcia said. "An officer has to witness the violation, just like he has to currently do now, and be able to testify to it in court."

Traffic stops will still happen and sometimes even for drivers enrolled in the program. It's designed, Garcia said, to be another tool and he knew from the beginning the program would not be for everyone.

"That is one of the greatest things about the Trusted Driver Program, it's totally voluntary," he said. "If it's not for you, then you don't need to join."

They are hoping to eventually expand to other cities like Houston. Right now, they are only operating in Texas but are looking to work with other law enforcement agencies also out of state.

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