BlackBerry bans drink-drive apps
But iPhone users keep boozing
Responding to complaints from four US senators, RIM has expelled two applications that warn users when they're approaching a police checkpoint, though Apple has yet to do the same.
The applications don't just show checkpoints looking for drunk drivers – they also list speed traps, enforcement cameras and other road hazards – but it's the functionality that allows drunk drivers to plan a route avoiding police detection that has got the senators so worked up.
Those senators – Harry Reid (Nevada), Charles Schumer (New York), Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey) and Tom Udall (New Mexico) – wrote to RIM, Apple and Google to ask that the applications be removed from their respective stores. Apple hasn't responded, and Trapster is still listed in the Google Marketplace (though phatomAlert has disappeared), but RIM has expunged both apps from its App World store.
Not that RIM's ban will prevent anyone using the applications: in fact the publishers of both Trapster and PhantomALERT report downloads have increased significantly since the complaint attracted media attention, and as RIM doesn't restrict what applications can be installed, the removal from the official app store isn't such a big deal.
The applications don't do anything illegal: both are reliant on users to report enforcement activity to the benefit of others, so legally no different from getting the nod from an oncoming car. But showing the locations of checkpoints on a map is a step too far for some, despite the publishers' assertions that it prevents drink driving:
"I personally witnessed a few drivers coming through the checkpoints, telling the officers that they were going to pick up a drunk friend because they saw on Trapster that we had a checkpoint operating," says the quotation on the Trapster site, attributing it to Lt. Chris Wynn, who "until recently headed the Escondido Police Department's traffic bureau".
But the real question is if we want application stores to act as ethical filters over the applications we run, and whose ethics should be applied? Apple apparently removed the "cure for homosexuality" app on the grounds that it was "offensive to large groups of people" who organised protests and complained loudly. Trapster and PhantomALERT only prompted complaints from four people, who happen to be elected senators: not enough for Apple, more than enough for RIM, and nearly enough for Google. ®
What a load of BS. The whole "drink driving" angle appears to be a publicity stunt thought up by annoyed LEOs and a few senators with too much free time on their hands. Folks who have done any recent driving in California (where, I kid you not, 2010 was officially designated as the "Year of the Checkpoint") are fully aware that the primary use of these apps is simply avoiding the annoying 30-minute queues at CHP checkpoints -- NOT enabling drink driving.
Drunk driving is very stupid...
I'm not a fan of these checkpoints, and I do my best to avoid them if I somehow come to know that one is around.
Why? I was driving along fairly late at night when I saw this distant scene of flashing lights and what looked like the elevated bed of a flatbed towing truck in the distance. To me, it looked like an accident and nothing that I wanted anything to do with, much less interfere. So I turned around rather hastily in a parking lot (without signaling my intention) and was almost through it when this police car (no lights of any sort on, not even its headlights) snuck up behind my vehicle. Turns out the police really weren't very happy that I'd turned around, and they also weren't happy that I hadn't signaled. (Do you believe that was the only reason? I don't. I'm sure they thought I was possibly drunk and looking to dodge the checkpoint.)
That's how I got the only warning on my driving record...and to be quite frank, it made me mad. I really call into question how putting a road block right near a busy intersection in the dead of night is any less potentially dangerous than a drunk driver.
Now... Whish of theshe two routesh to follow home? Hmm?...
Oopsh.., dropped me keys...
No, but seriously though. Drink-driving is a bloody stupid thing to do. Me, I'd have the software route the arseholes TOWARDS the checkpoints...
By the way, you appear to be using "app store" as a generic term in the article. I understand a certain turtle-necked gentleman would disapprove most strongly were he to find out...
Drink-driving is only the justification
States that make heavy use of these checkpoints justify them on the (publicly palatable) basis of drink-driving enforcement. But law enforcement organisations like them because it gives them an opportunity to examine vehicles and their drivers and passengers for many, many other potential offences unrelated to drink-driving or public safety. In some states, for instance, these checkpoints are used more for immigration enforcement than for sobriety checks. At a checkpoint in one western state, for instance, I was ordered out of the car and cross-examined for 15 minutes for no other excuse than having a British accent. No, given the particular senators involved, I don't think that their opposition to these apps honestly has much to do with drink-driving...
Cannot disagree more
I personally obey the law. I don't drink and drive and where I live these checkpoints are not posted anywhere. Frankly they are often located in my area in very dangerous locations (right around a bend, near a busy intersection etc etc.) I understand that this app can be used by someone who is drunk and doesn't want to be caught but lets be honest no one likes going through these things. They slow me down form getting from point A to point B.