US senators urge end to drunk driver 'apps'

Mar 22, 2011
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, shown here in 2010, and US senators on Tuesday pressed Google, Apple, and Blackberry maker Research in Motion to pull the plug on applications that can help drunk drivers use smart phones to elude police checkpoints.

US senators on Tuesday pressed Google, Apple, and Blackberry maker Research in Motion to pull the plug on applications that can help drunk drivers use smart phones to elude police checkpoints.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and fellow Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg and Tom Udall urged the high-tech giants to stop selling the software unless it is stripped of the drunk-driving feature.

"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," they wrote in a letter released by Reid's office.

"We hope that you will give our request to make these applications unavailable immediate consideration," they wrote.

The applications rely on driver-generated databases of speed traps, speed cameras, or even drunk driving checkpoints and include audible alerts.

PhantomAlert, which the USA Today newspaper called "one of the most popular," asks potential customers on its website: "Tired of traffic tickets? The embarrassment, the time, the points, the frustration, the money?"

"You will be alerted as you approach: Railroad Crossings, Dangerous Intersections, Dangerous Curves, Speed Bumps, Speed Traps, Speed Cameras, Red Light Cameras, School Zones, DUI Checkpoints."

DUI means "driving under the influence," or intoxicated.

PhantomAlert chief executive Joe Scott called the lawmakers' appeal "a knee-jerk reaction" and said his company was helping to "deter drivers from drinking and driving" by making them more aware of the risk of arrest.

Scott told AFP that the company had received one testimonial from a man who had been set to drive after drinking but "got scared" upon learning that there were checkpoints nearby, and got a ride home from sober friends instead.

The letter went to chief executive Eric Schmidt; Scott Forstall, senior vice president for iPhone Software; and Research in Motion co-chief executive officers James Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis.

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2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2011
"Tired of traffic tickets? The embarrassment, the time, the points, the frustration, the money?"
Then BEHAVE YOURSELVES, and you won't need this app!

(Driving is a privilege, not a right. If you can't handle the restrictions that are necessary for your safety -- and that of the public, if you care about them -- then don't even try to drive.)
3.3 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2011
However, these apps are NOT ONLY for DUI drivers. The apps also show accidents, closed roads, hazard conditions ahead and also help drivers to chose the safest route through fire zones, etc.
So, please consider the entire spectrum and don't get stuck onto a slim and sick part of the issue.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
I'm not in the habit of driving drunk, but I'm interested in avoiding DUI checkpoints just for the sake of driving time. If mobile apps are allowed to help you navigate around slow traffic caused by construction, accidents, and fallen debris, they should be allowed to warn you about DUI checkpoints.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
Just get rid of anything to do with police checkpoints, cameras, ect and everything is fine and dandy. If that can't be achieved google maps is good enoough for traffic (better than just, "where is the accident?") and the weather network can be used for road conditions/closures.

IMO people using these kinds of apps for police locations, ect, are as good as drivers that are breaking the law. If you need to know where the police are, you need to stop breaking the law! It really is infuriating when people knowingly drink and drive or just plain act like a 5 year old having a temper tantrum. I can't wait for automated cars to become mainstream, my life will extend by 10 years from that alone...

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