FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 23, 2011
SCHUMER CALLS ON APPLE, ANDROID, BLACKBERRY AND OTHERS TO REMOVE SMARTPHONE APPS THAT ALLOW DRUNK DRIVERS TO EVADE POLICE CHECKPOINTS
Numerous Applications for iPads, Smartphones, Help Drivers Identify Where Local Police Officers Have Set Up DUI Checkpoints – Putting Drivers’ and Passengers’ Lives At Risk
With More Than 10,000 Americans Dying in Drunk Driving-Related Crashes Each Year, Senators Urge Apple to Remove Dangerous Apps from Store
Schumer: When It Comes to Drunk Driving, There Should Not be An App for That; Manufacturers Have A Responsibility To Shut Down Apps That Can Lead to Tragedy
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on Apple, Android, Blackberry and other smartphone and tablet computer makers to immediately stop selling applications that help drunk drivers evade police and put innocent New Yorkers at risk on our roads. Schumer pointed out that several applications now being sold for smartphones and tablets provide drunk drivers with a “how-to” guide in avoiding detection for drunk driving. The applications, like Trapster and PhantomALERT, provide location information to the user, alerting them to police checkpoints, speed traps, and known DUI checkpoints. The applications pinpoint police enforcement zones through user-submitted information that connects to GPS data, providing drivers with the ability to evade DUI checkpoints, speed traps, and red light cameras. The applications are free to download from application stores.
In a letter to manufacturers, Schumer, joined by Senators Reid, Lautenberg, and Tom Udall, asked that applications that allow users to evade law enforcement and put drivers and the public at risk be removed from the companies online application stores immediately, unless they are altered to remove the DUI and law enforcement checkpoint functionality.
“These applications are nothing more than a how-to guide in avoiding law enforcement and they provide drunk drivers with the tools they need to go undetected, putting innocent families and children at risk. This is a major public safety concern,” said Schumer. “Along with my colleagues across the country, I am requesting you remove these applications from your online store immediately.”
The applications can be downloaded for free and provide GPS data and audible warnings to users alerting them to where DUI checkpoints, red light cameras, and police speed traps exist, as well as providing various other alerts. The user has the ability to set the alert radius to determine the best driving route to evade detection. The designers make clear the intention of their applications in their application descriptions. Trapster’s application description states that it has over 10 million users worldwide and “alerts you to speed traps, red light and speed cameras, police check points and other wallet hazards.” PhantomALERT claims to “provide the 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.”
“I am asking smartphone and tablet manufacturers to make sure that reckless and dangerous drivers aren’t provided with easy-to-use tools to evade arrest and get around law enforcement,” said Schumer. “The consequences of allowing these applications to continue to be sold through app stores could be deadly.”
The dangers of drunk driving are well-documented. One person dies every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving accident, and more than 10,000 Americans die in drunk-driving crashes each year. Given the harmful effects drunk driving has on families and society, Schumer asked that Apple stop facilitating access to this technology through their online store.
The text of the letter is below:
Chief Executive Officer
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
James L. Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis
Research In Motion
295 Phillip Street
Canada N2L 3W8
Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President
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