Trapster is a popular iPhone app that alerts drivers to police speed traps, red light cameras and DUI checkpoints. The company tired to remove DUI checkpoints, but users kept putting them back in.
Four U.S. Senators have sent a letter to Apple urging it to pull several apps they claim help drunk drivers avoid the police.
“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. “We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.”
According to the senators, there are “numerous” apps that help drivers identify DUI checkpoints, allowing drunk drivers to avoid them. One app has a real-time database of DUI checkpoints, while another allows its 10 million users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time, the senators say.
The letter was sent to Scott Forstall, who is in charge of iPhone software at Apple.
The four Democratic senators include Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Speaker. The others are Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM).
Are there really numerous DUI checkpoint apps? And should they be pulled? Last year, I talked to Trapster (likely one of the apps targeted by the Senators), which was seeing a number of police departments using the app to highlight their own checkpoints. It’s just another way of increasing enforcement, the police say.
Here’s the full text of the letter that the senators sent to Scott Forstall:
March 22, 2011
Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Dear Mr. Forstall,
We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for the iPhone, iPad and other Apple, Inc. products 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 iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.
We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.
One application, your company acknowledges in the product description, 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 remove these applications from your store 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.