DUI checkpoint apps are designed to help smartphone users who may have had a few too many cocktails before getting behind the wheel avoid getting caught by police. But the apps came under intense scrutiny by members of Congress in 2011, forcing makers of the iPhone and Blackberry to ban such applications.
In a March 2011 letter to the smartphone manufacturers, four members of the U.S. Senate sharply criticized their acceptance of DUI checkpoint apps made by independent developers.
"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," wrote U.S. Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, Charles E. Schumer of New York, Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Tom Udall of New Mexico.
DUI Checkpoint Apps Banned
Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry smartphone, and Apple, which makes the iPhone, both agreed to remove DUI apps from their online stores in 2011. Apple also amended its guidelines for submitting apps to its iTunes app store.
"Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected," the amended Apple guidelines state.
Why DUI Checkpoint Apps Drew Fire
DUI checkpoint apps are designed to help drivers evade police sobriety checkpoints and ultimately avoid being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Lawmakers said police officers from across the country voiced concern about DUI checkpoint apps. "If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?" one law enforcement officer asked the senators.
"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," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to the three smartphone makers.
"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," the senators said.
When Research In Motion announced it would shut down DUI checkpoint apps, the four lawmakers released a statement saying: "Drunk drivers will soon have one less tool to evade law enforcement and endanger our friends and families. We appreciate RIM's immediate reply and urge the other smartphone makers to quickly follow suit."
How DUI Checkpoint Apps Work
DUI checkpoint apps allow smartphone users who spot a sobriety checkpoint to add its location to a database of all such police operations in the United States and other countries. Some are free, and others cost as much as $4.99 to download or require a fee of up to $9.99 a month.
Users of the DUI checkpoint apps are able to see a map of all sobriety checkpoints in their vicinity and avoid them by taking alternate routes. One of the most popular apps promised to help drivers avoid losing "thousands of dollars by helping you avoid an arrest for a DUI."
One DUI checkpoint app contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real-time. Another that has more than 10 million users allows users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.
Another popular DUI checkpoint app included a feature allowing users to call a cab.