Checkpoint Apps Encourage Drunk Driving, Senators Say

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As most Raleigh and North Carolina residents know, sobriety checkpoints are a key element of the state’s anti-drunk driving Booze It & Lose It program. At checkpoints this past St. Patrick’s Day police issued more than 1,000 DWI charges. A group of U.S. senators wants to lower that number, but lower it honestly.

The senators are asking smartphone app companies to stop selling programs that help drivers locate checkpoints in their area. The lawmakers say that drivers are using these apps to avoid detection by finding ways around the Booze It & Lose It stops.

The apps scan official websites for the locations of checkpoints and when they will be in operation. The data is then sent to the user’s smartphone or tablet. Some apps scan for speed traps and red light cameras as well.

The letter the group sent to executives of the major app companies specifically cited concerns raised by law enforcement agencies. According to one police captain, the apps serve only as helpful hands to drunk drivers trying to avoid arrest. It’s unacceptable, said the senators, considering that one person dies every 50 minutes in a drunk driving crash.

The manufacturers say in sales literature that the apps are meant to discourage drivers from getting behind the wheel after a few drinks. The theory is that these drivers will be cowed into either not drinking, appointing a designated driver or staying home when they see how many checkpoints are up.

To date, only Research In Motion, the Blackberry company, has responded. The company had amended its App Store guidelines last September to ban apps that encourage “excessive consumption of alcohol” or other illegal substances, or that encourage minors to drink or smoke cigarettes. The checkpoint apps may not encourage drinking specifically, the senators said, but they make it easier to drink and drive.

Source: Techland/Time, “Senators to App Stores: Get Rid of Pro-Drunk Driving Apps!,” Michelle Castillo, 03/23/11