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Local police department will soon text drivers traffic tickets

Through the Trusted Driver program, registered drivers in Windcrest can avoid being pulled over by police for minor traffic infractions.

WINDCREST, Texas — It's a concept never done before, and it's about to happen in Bexar County: Getting a traffic ticket sent to your phone without an officer pulling you over. One police department will be the first in the nation to test it.

"It's not a 100% solution, but it's a step forward in the right direction," said Val Garcia, President & CEO of the Trusted Driver Program.

Garcia is one of five former SAPD officers who are part of a 12-member team that created and developed Trusted Driver. 

"We're proud to still give back with what we've gained with our experience as a law enforcement officer," said Garcia. 

All members of the team with a background in law enforcement come from different sectors.

"The patrol level, we have an individual who spent time in investigations, we have an individual who spent time on the tactics and those kinds of units that involve how officers handle certain situations," Garcia explained. "Most importantly, we have an individual who spent his career as a SAFFE officer on the east side of town."

Credit: Garcia, far left, pictured with four members of the Trusted Driver team

Trusted Driver is not an app.

It's a web-based program where drivers can avoid seeing a police officer face-to-face, and instead get a ticket via text message.

"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," said Garcia.

To get started, you need to register for the program at mytrusteddriver.com. Enter your information on Trusted Driver's website to create a profile. Include any disabilities or medical conditions police need to know. All information provided is secure and encrypted. No information is shared with third parties.

"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," said Garcia. "It really gives an officer information faster in the field to handle a traffic stop if it does occur and be able to deescalate."

RELATED: Instead of tickets, one police department is taking a different approach at helping the community

After you register as a Trusted Driver, any time you commit a minor traffic violation, police won't turn on their lights and pull you over.

Instead, an officer runs your license plate, verifies that you're the driver, calls up your Trusted Driver information and sends a text with a warning or citation to your phone.

"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 Garcia.

For citizens who wish to contest their ticket, all court proceedings can be handled virtually as well through the program. Trusted Driver is free and citizens can opt out at any time.

The program will launch with Windcrest Police and will only be available to drivers who live there, for now.

"We're very proud...We hope that we have a lot of participation," said Captain Jimmie Cole of the Windcrest Police Department. "I do believe it's probably something that's going to spread probably entirely across the nation."

It's a historic collaboration with the goal of improving safety on the roads for citizens and police, while limiting those anxiety-ridden interactions of getting pulled over.

"Traffic violations are not one of those interactions that most citizens want to have with their police. This removes that from the equation," said Cole. "It also gives our officers an opportunity to interact with members of Trusted Driver where they don't issue a citation. 'You've got a tail light out, whenever you want to take care of that.'"

Through Trusted Driver, police are also able to send positive messages to drivers who are doing a stellar job obeying traffic laws.

The program launches Saturday in Windcrest, and there are hopes to eventually expand to other cities. 

To learn more about Trusted Driver, and if you're interested in registering, Windcrest Police and developers of the program will be at the Civic Center in Takas Park Saturday, January 15 at 11:30 a.m. Food and door prizes will be provided.