DUI checkpoint app causes controversy

March 24, 2011 12:10:43 AM PDT
Want to avoid a speeding ticket? There's an app for that! However, with it comes controversy. New smartphone apps promise to alert drivers to speed traps, red light cameras and DUI checkpoints, but some are pushing to put the brakes on this new technology.

Under names like "Trapster," "Fuzz Alert" and "Phantom Alert," new iPhone and smartphone apps -- many of them free -- scope out where police are lurking looking for speeders or red light violators. Drivers get an audible alert as they drive and the apps use GPS to map out roadblocks and even DUI checkpoints.

"If it's going to help them be a better driver, a safer driver, then we're all for it. If it's going to distract motorists and cause them to be a violator, then obviously we have concern about that," said CHP Ofc. Sam Morgan.

CHP says their officers know all about the new apps and how often they don't work with new laser radar.

"By the time it alerts the driver, we've already gotten their speed, already know who they are. So in that case, it may be a false sense of security for them," said Morgan.

CHP says the apps also fail in some urban areas by giving out false positives, which they say could be good for reminding drivers to abide by the rules of road.

"Do you know where I can download it?" joked driver Eric Linden.

Some drivers like the idea and others don't. Another driver said, "That's a terrible idea because then you're concentrating more on your phone than on the road."

As for the apps pinpointing DUI checkpoints, in California the locations are made public days before they're set up anyway, so those apps aren't a problem for CHP, but in other states those apps are causing quite a controversy.

Still, Blackberry has announced it is removing apps that identify local DUI checkpoints and some senators are pressuring Google and Apple to do the same with their smartphones.