Avoid DUI Checkpoints? No App for That, Senators Say

Four U.S. senators are asking Apple, Google and Blackberry-maker Research In Motion to remove from their online stores smartphone apps that alert motorists to DUI checkpoints and presumably help inebriated drivers avoid police detection.

Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Tom Udall (D-NM) called the apps "harmful to public safety" in a March 22 letter to the three mobile industry leaders.

"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 make these applications unavailable immediate consideration," the letter states.

One such app is Buzzed, a 99-cent utility in Apple's App Store that alerts users to DUI checkpoints within a 100-mile radius of their current location.

"This app has totally saved me from getting a DUI multiple times! Must have for everyone!" writes App Store customer "Joyanne P" in the customer reviews section for Buzzed.

(insert image: DUI checkpoint 1.jpg)

"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," the senators' letter states.

More than 10,000 Americans die in drunk-driving crashes every year. Below is the full text of Tuesday's letter:

March 22, 2011

Eric Schmidt

Chief Executive Officer

Google, Inc.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway

Mountain View , CA 94043

James L. Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis

Research In Motion

295 Phillip Street

Waterloo , Ontario

Canada N2L 3W8

Mr. Scott Forstall

Senior Vice President, iPhone Software

Apple, Inc.

1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino , CA 95014

Dear Mr. Schmidt, Balsillie, Lazaridis and Forstall,

We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for Apple, Blackberry and Android operating systems for smartphones 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 applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.

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.

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.

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 make these applications unavailable 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

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