U.S. Senators Rail Against Drunk Driving Checkpoint Avoidance App

Four United States Senators are not happy with an application that they say helps drunk drivers avoid checkpoints and they are demanding that a number of app stores yank it immediately. Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tom Udall (D-NM) have asked Apple iPhone head Scott Forstall, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt and Research in Motion’s (RIM) co-CEOs, James Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis to pull an undisclosed number of apps.

"Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern," the senators said in a letter to the executives of the three companies. "We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration."

While the focus is on an app called PhantomALERT, there are other apps that the Senators asked to be removed. All of them have to do with drinking and driving apparently. PhantomALERT, developed and published by a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based company of the same name, is an app described by the makers as "the world’s largest driver generated and verified database of speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras, school zones, DUI checkpoints, dangerous intersections and more across North America."

The CEO of PhantomALERT, Joe Scott, calls the reaction to his company’s app "knee-jerk":

"I think this is a knee-jerk reaction," said Joe Scott, the CEO OF PhantomALERT. "PhantomALERT is a 100% legal service. If they really understood what we are doing and aim to achieve they would actually support us."

Scott added that the app simply broadcasts information provided by the police. Police often announce sobriety checkpoints on the radio and television because it often proves to be a deterrent. More from Scott:

"Many police departments promote or advertise DUI [driving under the influence] crackdowns through the media as PSAs or through PR," Scott said. "We are just taking it a bit further and pushing the info to drivers through GPS and smart phone technology. The idea is to deter drivers from drinking and driving. When drivers get alerts for DUI checkpoints on their smart phones and GPS, they will think twice about drinking and driving."

Whatever the argument, chances are PhantomALERT will be pulled from most of these app stores. Apple has pulled apps from its store for less obvious reasons, after all.

Source: Computer World by way of Uncharted NES. Image credit: DWI Blog

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  1. 0
    lordlundar says:

    Yeah, it does seem to be a bit of a knee jerk reaction. I mean, most people who are above the legal limit can’t handle using a phone properly anyway.

  2. 0
    eston says:

    They’re not trying to make a law against these apps, they’re simply requesting that these companies voluntarily discontinue this feature. There is no first amendment issue here.

  3. 0
    Erik says:

    Because republicans would never erode rig *achpatriotacthchoo* erode rights.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  4. 0
    eston says:

    Well first off, IIRC there is already a legal requirement for police to disclose where DUI checkpoints are going to be set up, in advance.

    Second, this app is just as useful for people who are not drunk, because even sober people don’t want to wait in line in the early a.m. just to return home.

  5. 0
    Erik says:

    Senators drive themselves?  I thought they would have people to do that for them.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  6. 0
    SeanB says:

    I cannot find phantom alert on either the google or apple app store. 

    http://fuzzalert.com/ however is online, and allows anonymous web surfers to report these things. If you don’t like what they are doing, go in there and report a bunch of bogus locations.

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