Senators: DUI checkpoint app causes controversy image

A group of senators from four different states are targeting applications, like Phantom Alert, which lets drivers know where DUI checkpoints are located.

Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) called those apps, which use a phone’s GPS to warn drivers when a sobriety check lies ahead, “harmful to public safety.”
Considering that more than 10,000 Americans die in drunk-driving crashes every year, with one drunk-driving related death every 50 minutes, the senators say that it’s a matter of “grave concern” to them that smartphone customers can download the D.U.I.-checkpoint-dodging applications so easily.

“We appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at their fingertips, but giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern,” reads the senators open letter.

“We know that your companies share our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store unless they are altered to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.”

The senators report that Research in Motion, the manufacturer of BlackBerry, will remove from its online store the high-tech apps USA TODAY spotlighted in a story this week.

Under names like “Trapster,” “Fuzz Alert” and “Phantom Alert,” new iPhone and smartphone apps — many of them free — scope out where police are lurking looking for speeders or red light violators.

The CEO of the company that makes that app claims it’s completely legal, saying that police often advertise the same checkpoint locations before they’re set up, warning drivers to be careful in certain areas, and never to drink and drive.

Apps Alert Drivers to DUI Checkpoints: MyFoxDC.com

[open letter]

Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
Apple, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Mr. Forstall,

We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products allow customers to identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints. With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.

We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.

One application, your company acknowledges in the product description, contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real-time. Another application, with more than 10 million users, also allows users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.

Police officers from across the country have voiced concern about these products, with one police captain saying, “If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?” With a person dying every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving crash, this technology should not be promoted to your customers–in fact, it shouldn’t even be available.

We appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at their fingertips, but giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern. We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.
Thank you for your prompt and careful consideration of this matter. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

Sincerely,
Senator Reid
Senator Schumer
Senator Lautenberg
Senator Udall