Texas Town To Start Issuing Traffic Tickets By Text Message

from the UNSUBSCRIBE dept

Way back in 2014, Oklahoma state senator (and former police officer) Al McAffrey had an idea: what if cops could issue traffic tickets electronically, without ever having to leave the safety and comfort of their patrol cars?

The idea behind it was officer safety. This would keep officers from standing exposed on open roads and/or interacting face-to-face with a possibly dangerous driver. The public’s safety was apparently low on the priority list, since this lack of interaction could permit impaired drivers to continue driving or allow actually dangerous people to drive away from a moving violation to do more dangerous things elsewhere.

It also would allow law enforcement agencies to convert drivers to cash more efficiently by speeding up the process and limiting things that might slow down the revenue stream, like having actual conversations with drivers. On the more positive side, it would also have lowered the chance of a traffic stop turning deadly (either for the officer or the driver) by limiting personal interactions that might result in the deployment of excessive or deadly force. And it also would limit the number of pretextual stops by preventing officers from claiming to have smelled something illegal while conducting the stop.

Up to now, this has only been speculative legislation. But it’s becoming a reality, thanks to government contractor Trusted Driver. Run by former police officer Val Garcia, the program operates much like the TSA’s Trusted Traveler program. Users create accounts and enter personal info and then receive traffic citations via text messages.

The program is debuting in Texas, where drivers who opt in will start being texted by cops when they’ve violated the law.

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.

The company claims the program will have several benefits, above and beyond limiting cop-to-driver interactions that have the possibility of escalating into deadly encounters. Some of the benefits aren’t immediately discernible, but giving cops more personal information could actually help prevent the senseless injury or killing of drivers who may have medical reasons that would explain their seeming non-compliance. Here’s Scott Greenfield highlighting this particular aspect of the Trusted Driver Program.

But this also offers an opportunity that can be critical in police interactions and has led to a great many tragic encounters.

“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.”

That police will be aware that a driver is deaf or autistic could be of critical importance in preventing a mistaken shooting, provided the cop reads it and is adequately trained not to kill deaf people because they didn’t comply with commands.

Unfortunately, the cadre of cops behind Trusted Driver seem to feel citizens are looking for even more ways to interact with officers, even if this interaction is limited to text messages.

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

Just like cops thinking they’re doing a good thing by pulling over drivers who haven’t committed a crime to give them a thumbs up or a Thanksgiving turkey, Trusted Driver seems to believe the public will be receptive to text messages from cops telling them they’re doing a good job driving, delivered to them via a number they associate with punishment for criminal acts. And it’s not like drivers in the program will be able to select which messages they receive: once you’ve opted in, you can have your heart rate temporarily increased by the law enforcement equivalent of slacktivism — one Trusted Driver believes will somehow build and repair the public’s relationship with the law enforcement officers that serve them.

This lies somewhere between the frontier of law enforcement and the inevitability of tech development. It’s not that it’s an inherently bad idea, but there’s a lot in there that’s problematic, including officers receiving increased access to driver’s personal info, which will now include their cell phone numbers. Law enforcement officers have a history of abusing access to personal info and this program gives them the opportunity to do so without ever leaving their patrol cars.

Then there’s the unanswered question about enforcement. Will members of this program receive more tickets just because they’re easier to ticket? Or will traffic enforcement still be evenly distributed (so to speak) across all drivers? Like other automated traffic enforcement efforts, tickets will be issued to the owner of the vehicle, rather than the actual driver, which is going to cause problems for people who haven’t actually committed a moving violation, beginning with increased insurance rates and possibly ending with bench warrants for unpaid tickets that were issued to the wrong person.

Still, it’s worth experimenting with. But it needs to be subject to intense scrutiny the entire time it’s deployed. There’s too much at risk for agencies and the general public to just let it hum along unattended in the background, steadily generating revenue. Unfortunately, if it does that part of the job (deepening the revenue stream), concerns about its use and operation are likely to become background noise easily drowned out by the sound of city coffers being filled.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Texas Town To Start Issuing Traffic Tickets By Text Message”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

uh huh,..

as can be imagined to be the result:
"ding!" messaged received,…
driver, while traveling at >90MPH,
looks down at their phone,
eager to see who just texted them,…

(i should hope the obvious expectancy of said text messaging need not be horrifically detailed here,…)

Norahc (profile) says:

Re: uh huh,..

So while they are driving down the road a cop is going to text another driver about a infraction?

Also not covered is how will the cops prove that the vehicle was anywhere near where the supposed violation occurred? I can easily see some local department turing it into a revenue stream (looking at you Alabama) where cops just enter a random plate and violation into the system.

Anonmylous says:

Hey you know what’d be even better? If we equipped civilian cars with plate readers, dashcams and a button drivers could press to automatically upload the video anytime they see a driving violation! Oh oh, maybe we could even give them a system to install at home to keep an eye on their neighbors and report them when needed!

And maybe we could update police uniforms while were at it to something a lot more intimidating…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Better yet, just have the precious little cops send their citation texts while sitting nice and cozy behind their desks at the station. Why would they want to leave? It’s so dangerous outside.

It will happen eventually. After all, we already have military grunts that do that to kill "fun sized terrorists" on the opposite side of the world. Why wouldn’t the cops want the same comforts?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Proof

I think you’re missing the point. You sign up, and then you can drive however you like without being bothered by police. Just send them whatever payoffs they ask for later, at your convenience. Sure, there won’t be too many people buying indulgences in some no-name Texas county. But imagine this in NYC or SF, especially once they add corporate accounts: have your people park wherever they like—bus lanes, bike lanes, fire zones—run red and yellow lights, whatever, and just get a monthly invoice instead of dealing with police officers, courts, and stacks of tickets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Like other automated traffic enforcement efforts, tickets will be issued to the owner of the vehicle, rather than the actual driver…

May I just say "no" right now?

I have the same objection to any other "ticket the owner rather than the driver" scheme. That is, to every other automated traffic enforcement effort in current use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Funny you mention that. Windcrest is a suburb of San Antonio. There’s another San Antonio suburb Leon Valley that made the news a couple years ago for refusing to end their Red Light camera program after Texas banned the use of red light cameras.

In the end Leon Valley was allowed to keep their revenue machines, however the fines for any ticket they generate can not be sent to collections, be used to block vehicle registration or license renewal, can not be used as the basis for a warrant, and can not be used to create further fines, reported to credit or sent to a collection agency. Basically the state took away any enforcement mechanisms for the "tickets." They no longer have any legal weight and you can just ignore them, but the city keeps issuing them counting on ignorance of the law to get people to keep paying them.

ECA (profile) says:

Wonder of wonders?

And Who is driving that car? Me, my spouse, my Child, Who?Oops, my car was stollen and you just sent a Good driving note to ME?

There used to be Airplane controlled speed traps. Get a nice letter in the mail about my car speeding on the freeway.
Oh! that person ding abit fast? He robbed a bank in a stolen/not stolen car. DING, you have mail.
Oh! wow, that person I sold my car to, months ago, never changed the title and info. DING you have mail.

Lets have Multi registration of Everyone allowed to drive a Car. DIN, DING, DING, DING, you all have mail.

Oh! your car drives itself, it was speeding, Who do you think is paying this ticket?

AND we still have Dangerous driver! And you arnt stopping them, you are sending a email? DINGDING DING, you have won the lottery. As now the state is going to court cause a Drunk at 8am in the morning RAN thru a School Stop.


Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

What if you don't have a phone?

Just completed my 14th month of life without a phone (it’s wonderful, thanks for asking).

So far I’ve had to give up online banking even though I’d never accessed my account from my phone (save when ELAN would text me the code to prove I was really me trying to access my account from the only computer that had ever accessed my account).

When I shop, I lie and use my old phone number because you cannot shop online without a phone number. You also can’t fill out any online forms.

And now I could be ticketed for speeding and never know it until the summons arrives because I didn’t pay the ticket I didn’t know about?

Increasingly it appears to be all but illegal to live in this country without a phone.

Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Re: What if you don't have a phone?

"Increasingly it appears to be all but illegal… "
yeah, just like here in PA, where the illegality is NOT owning a car; for, how DARE one actually think that they could WALK to their destination!? Easy fix! have city/local townships just conveniently NOT build sidewalks next to automotive travel roads, then when one walks along the road, if they are not struck by a moving vehicle, can raze them for j-walking,…

Anonymous Coward says:

Sorry with all the spammers and robocallers, I don’t answer the phone nor messages that aren’t in my contact list. Such a send of text message would guarantee I’d delete it sight unseen as spam.

Further, I often turn my phone completely off. It prevents the battery being drained, resulting an another need to charge the battery, limiting the life of the battery, when I don’t have the option of turning off the missed call function.

As a last, I don’t always carry a phone with me. It’s not that I am doing bad things, it’s that I resent everyone and their brother spying and datamining.

So if I ever pass through this town, good luck on showing I read such a message.

Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Re: Re:

wait for it,… the GREEN ALERT! "WHOP WHOP CHING! CHING!"
only thing mall cops have to do is issue a GREEN ALERT!{like Amber alerts for missing children, and Blue alerts for idiot cops needing their diaper changed} then everyone in a given radius is informed of x, y, or z anonymous driver’s activities! THAT will assure that at least the offender is informed!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ticket by text

They’ll just give you incentives to sign up.

  • Discounted fines… ie none of the additional bs fees that double or triple the actual fine
  • No points on your license if you pay the fine within 30 days

On the other hand… if you decide to fight the ticket, how do they prove you or your car were there or actually did the infraction you are accused of.

Anonymous Coward says:

This could be great for Deaf drivers if not limited to text messages, but also video relay messages if the police will call their video relay service they use which phone number the Deaf drivers could include in their personal information, allowing more police interactions in ASL (American Sign Language)

This is important. Text messages sometimes don’t work to adequetely communicate with Deaf people. Not all Deaf people are literate and many are barely literate. In Texas, many are immigrants from Mexico and written English would often be their fourth language, (after MSL (Mexican Sign Language), written Spanish, and ASL) and they often are terrible at it because they are not adequetely schooled in it yet or they may have particular a bad case of language deprivation syndrome. Also many need not just an ASL interpreter but also another interpreter called a Certified Deaf Interpreter, that is a Deaf Interpreter for the Deaf to interpret the hearing cultural form of ASL from the ASL interpreter to a more readily understood Deaf cultural form of ASL).

Too many Deaf people get wrongly harmed in traffic stops (and some killed) by police over misunderstandings arising from language and cultural barriers. Too many passenger young CODAs (hearing children of Deaf Adults) have been involuntarily pressed in service and traumatized by abusive cops to interpret for them. (And some not just traumatized but also harmed by accident being unwillingly pulled into the middle of interactions with the Deaf parent by the police that became violent like for example in some cases of where the Deaf parent did not like how the police treated their child and physically tried to stop it)

This can be a valuable tool to avoid all this tragedic interactions and to help ensure safer interactions for the Deaf involving the police. It also could be huge for Deaf people with multiple disabilities. (Many Deaf are autistic too for example)

It could be very good for people with disabilities if properly implemented as long as people can opt out after if they choose to opt in, you never know police would not abuse this for cash grab or some other nefarious goal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh, with "proper training" for the police if that ever going to happen, can Deaf drivers then be guaranteed to interact only with accountable, disciplined, adequately knowledgable, non-abusing police officers all the time? And that are police officers miraculously all trained out of all their assholeness, prejudice, propensity to escalate things or resort to violence when faced with strange situations that involve wrongly perceived "defiance" to their "authority" lawful or not, and wrongly perceived "threat" to their "safety", right? And these wonderfully trained police officers pay attention to their training, do the work to educate themselves, willing to learn and change and have enough integrity to follow all the relevant policies and training, right? Also have enough common sense and sound judgement to deal appropriately with often misunderstood minority in a safe manner, right? The wonderfully trained police officers will get their own damn interpreters and stop bullying the young CODAs in the car for interpeting for them, right? Geez, I didnt realize police training is so such an important safeguard for the Deaf drivers that they dont need other programs to safeguard themselves against wrong police violence and communication abuse and abuse of their hearing children during traffic stops.
Anyways, until there is "perfect training" in place for all the police departments, how is it better not to have this program as an important safeguard for Deaf drivers to avoid traffic stops by abusive, willingly ignorant, undisciplined, and badly trained police officers which there are plenty in Texas especially the small town cops? If this program can help people with disabilities avoid the abuse from the bad apples while waiting for the wonderfully trained cops with enough sensitivity and sensibility to finish their training to arrive on the street and replace them, why not have the safeguard against police abuse that this program could possibly provide as an available option, eh?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

why not have the safeguard against police abuse that this program could possibly provide as an available option

Would you trust the police to not utilize the loopholes left behind by a system that is rife for abuse?

If there’s a hole in the henhouse wire fence, I’m not going to trust the fox that tries to sell me a blowtorch even if it proves useful for welding the hole shut.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You don’t have to deal with institutional audism, like Deaf people have to everyday so you dont understand. This could be great for Deaf people if it does lead to more interactions in ASL, and if it does lead to more safety for the Deaf drivers and their hearing children… especially the children who get abused as well sometimes. I’ll take the good with the bad. I’m aware this have potential to be abused. The article writer was very clear on this. The article writer also points out that this is worth experimenting and I agree with the writer as in my previous post I point out the potential for good for people with disabilities which this program stated goal is to help them. I also point out that it could be good as long as you can opt out after you choose to opt in in case it becomes too problematic for you. I know it’s not for everyone, but it could be very good for some people and the important thing is it’s not mandatory to participate in this program.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Techdirt’s regulars have seen the claims that SOPA was supposed to help music creators and FOSTA was supposed to prevent sex worker abuse.

None of those proposed "solutions" actually worked, aside from giving vested corporate interests another platform to thump their chests over. You’re going to have to forgive the well-earned skepticism that most folks regard such institutions. "It might help one small portion of the population… maybe" is a worn out excuse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Nothing to forgive, I understand well your skepticism. It’s very American. 🙂 Your points are valid. Right. We know how much America embrace Cronyism Capitalism and that the Almighty Dollar rules in America. You know the song, "Money" by Extreme? That’s America and that’s why all this political corruption. I understand that Americans can’t expect good governance unless their materialistic culture changes.
However, a big difference though is that SOPA is not something you can opt out. This doesn’t affect anyone who do not opt in to participate in the program. Participation is not mandatory and this is crucial. Tread carefully yes, of course, and one should when it comes to the police, but don’t let fear gets in the way of something that could be great.

btr1701 (profile) says:

tickets will be issued to the owner of the vehicle, rather than
the actual driver, which is going to cause problems for
people who haven’t actually committed a moving violation,
beginning with increased insurance rates and possibly ending
with bench warrants for unpaid tickets that were issued to
the wrong person.

The only way the government can issue tickets to a registered owner (rather than the actual driver of the vehicle) is to decriminalize the violation and issue them administrative fines because the Constitution requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the person accused committed the crime for criminal violations. And if the violation is downgraded to administrative rather than criminal to get around that, then they can’t issue arrest warrants for non-payment like they can for criminal violations.

Basically, instead of an arrest warrant, they do what any debt collector does– send it to a collection agency and report you to the credit bureaus as delinquent and f-up your credit and/or put a bar on your vehicle registration until payment is received. But no one can come to your door and arrest you for it any more than they can show up and arrest you for failing to pay your Visa bill this month.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The only way the government can issue tickets to a registered owner (rather than the actual driver of the vehicle) is to decriminalize the violation and issue them administrative fines because the Constitution requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the person accused committed the crime for criminal violations.

Traffic tickets aren’t criminal violations to begin with.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Traffic tickets aren’t federal. That means there are 50 different sovereignties all with different laws. You can’t make a sweeping generalized statement like "traffic tickets aren’t criminal violations to begin with" and have it be true of all jurisdictions.

In some jurisdictions, moving violations are indeed criminal offenses (or were until they were downgraded to administrative violations so that tickets could be issued to vehicle owners regardless of who was driving).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: With great power comes absolutely no responsibility

All the official training in the world doesn’t do you much good when the primary unofficial lesson police are taught from personal experience and watching other police is that police are above the law and can do basically whatever they want without fear of consequences, so if you want to improve the police the top reform shouldn’t be ‘better training’ or ‘better pay’ but ‘hold them accountable for their actions with standards fitting for their authority and power rather than ones that treat them as the dumbest things on two legs.’

That One Guy (profile) says:

That should not or ever should have been in question

That police will be aware that a driver is deaf or autistic could be of critical importance in preventing a mistaken shooting, provided the cop reads it and is adequately trained not to kill deaf people because they didn’t comply with commands.

Hope they’re riding on magical unicorns while you’re at it, that’s probably more likely to happen.

Also that sentence is seriously horrifying when you think about it for basically any time at all. The idea that ‘training not to kill someone that’s not following directions’ should ever be needed is all sorts of monstrous and damning as it suggests training and/or inclinations that murder is considered an acceptable response to someone not following orders from a cop.

My Tikkit says:

what a container of shit, this is fair Texas victimizing their citizens once more. How the fuck are you gonna ticket me when I am not the one driving the car? Fair cause the car is authorized in my title does not cruel I was the one driving. Got Verification it was me? No, at that point fuck your ticket and you as well pig view more on https://mytikkit.com/faqs-tikkit/

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...