Apple, Google, and Research In Motion have been asked to remove apps that provide information about DUI checkpoints. This request came from four democratic senators yesterday, although it is unsure whether the companies in question will comply.
In one section of the letter, Sens. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, and Mark Udall say: “With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.”
However, the situation is far from clear, as many states in the US require police to announce DUI checkpoints ahead of time anyway. If DUI location information has to be published in newspapers within these areas, how is a smartphone app really any different? Even in other parts of the country where this kind of arrangement is not law, it remains to be seen if anyone has the power to force the removal of these apps.
“One application 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,” said the report, adding “Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern.”
There are examples of DUI apps on all the major platforms, with Buzzed, Checkpointer, and Tipsy being three examples from the Apple App Store. The Checkpointer app is described in this way: “The super small, one time fee of $4.99 spent today on Checkpointer could potentially save you thousands of dollars by helping you avoid an arrest for DUI. It might even make you think twice before taking that drink. Who knows?”
Similar apps are also available for other platforms, including Checkpoint Wingman in the Android Market, and Phantom Alert for RIM’s Blackberry. All of the companies who were sent the letter request have not yet responded, although Sen. Schumer is holding a press briefing on the matter at Apple’s large Fifth Ave. store in Manhattan.