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Mobile Apps for Holiday DUI Sobriety CheckpointsWhat's Next?



During the holiday season, there inevitably are more partiers driving drunk on the nation's highways. Now smartphones have joined the conversation. They are helping drivers identify holiday DUI sobriety checkpoints.

Sobriety Checkpoint Mobile Apps: Police Aid or Public Evasion Tool?

Incidentally, these apps are not trying to hide this fact, nor be covert about it, either. Instead, they claim to be assisting with law enforcement efforts in deterring drunk-driving offenses over the holiday season and into the new year (and beyond). Still, the debate continues over whether the mobile apps and corollary websites are aiding law enforcement or trying to help drivers prone to drinking to circumvent those efforts.

Mobile Apps and Websites Highlight Sobriety Checkpoints on Large Clickable Maps

The mobile app called Buzzed and its corollary website, Everycheckpoint.com serve a single purpose: to highlight and expose sobriety checkpoints during the holidays and throughout the year. They display this information in the format of a large clickable map. The site has a disclaimer that says it was formed mindful of law enforcement efforts. The site envisions itself as a vehicle to allow the police to effectively and efficiently reach a larger number of drivers about DUI sobriety checkpoints and crackdown efforts. Everycheckpoint.com explicitly states that its intention is not to assist drivers in averting any checkpoints or law enforcement efforts to combat drunk driving. Instead, the site claims to want to raise funds and public awareness of the need to deter drunk driving. Some remain suspicious of these stated motives, however, and believe these apps are encouring DUIs.  

Congress Asked Tech Giants to Remove Apps That Assist Drivers in Sobriety Checkpoint Evasion

In the summer of 2011, Senators Reid, Schumer, Lautenberg, and Udall approached tech giants and industry leaders, Apple, Google, and Research in Motion, who manufactures BlackBerry, to pull apps from the virtual shelves of their online stores. The specific apps were not mentioned in the senators' letter, but at least one resource in the targeted group displayed a database of DUI checkpoints across the country and was updated in real time. Another app alerted drivers with notifications of DUI checkpoints in real time. Apparently, the apps the senators found objectionable were those that assisted drivers in DUI and sobriety checkpoint evasion. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the apps had in excess of 10 million users.

BlackBerry consented to the senators' request and answered the call to be more civic-minded than profit-oriented when drunk-driving offenses were at issue. But Apple and Google stood firmly rooted in their positions that they had a right to supply such apps. Google maintained that the apps were not illegal just because they displayed the locales of DUI and sobriety checkpoints to interested users and drivers. The more creative argument posited by Research in Motion was that its alerts of DUI checkpoints were intended to help law-respecting drivers to avoid unnecessary traffic delays.