A website called Everycheckpoint.com (and its mobile app, Buzzed) serve a very unique function, showing nothing but sobriety checkpoints on a big clickable map. A disclaimer on the site asserts it was created with police in mind, allowing them a way to more efficiently alert the public about when and where they will be cracking down on drunk driving. The site also takes great pains to point out: “Everycheckpoint.com and Buzzed are not intended to help drivers get around checkpoints or police efforts to deter drunk driving, so please do not think that this is our intention. We are here to help police, and raise money and awareness and help deter drivers from driving drunk!"
Problem is that it’s difficult to ignore how the civic mindedness of this and other sobriety checkpoint evasion apps seem to have conveniently dovetailed with the fact that last month, according to a New York Times article, Senators Harry Reid, Charles E. Schumer, Frank R. Lautenberg and Tom Udall asked Apple, Google and Research in Motion (the maker of BlackBerry) to remove apps from their online stores that help drunken drivers evade sobriety checkpoints.
When all else fails, rebrand…right?
The group of senators said that BlackBerry agreed to pull the apps and thanked the group for bringing them to its attention. Apple and Google are so far standing firm on their right to carry the apps. A USA Today article said that while the senators’ letter didn’t specifically name apps, it did note that one of them contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real time. Another allows users to notify other drivers of such crackdowns in real time and has more than 10 million users. A Google spokeswoman who spoke to the Times said that in supplying the precise locations of sobriety checkpoints, the apps don’t violate any of Google’s rules against doing things like supplying sexually explicit material, bullying or embodying hate speech. And they’re not illegal.
But JT Griffin, vice president for policy at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the Times, “There’s a difference between a broad announcement that there will be sobriety checkpoints in a general locations versus a specific location that can be downloaded to your smartphone with the intent of allowing a drunk driver to evade a checkpoint.”
PhantomAlert, one of the apps that Research in Motion pulled from its online store at the request of the senators, argues that real-time alerts of sobriety checkpoints are a convenience for law-abiding citizens who don’t want to be delayed. Still, CEO Joseph Scott told the Times that he is talking with Research In Motion about positioning his company as a “responsible corporate citizen” by suspending real-time reports.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 33,808 people died in traffic crashes in 2009 in the United States, including an estimated 10,839 people who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Drunk driving fatalities accounted for nearly a third of all traffic deaths last year.
What are your feelings on sobriety checkpoint alert maps? Do you buy their repositioning as police aids?