Concerned with a growing number of iPhone apps that work to alert users as to the presence of DUI checkpoints, a group of four US Senators penned a letter to Apple’s Senior VP of iPhone software, Scott Forstall, asking that the apps in question be removed.
“With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year,” the letter reads, “providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety. We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.”
The letter was penned by U.S. Senators Harry Reid from Nevada, Charles E. Schumer from New York, Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey, and Tom Udall from New Mexico. While the letter doesn’t call out any apps by name, it does point out that a number of iOS apps housed on iTunes contain descriptions which boast of functionality which includes a DUI checkpoints database that’s updated in real time. One app, the letter writes, has more than 10 million users keen on alerting “each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.”
A quick search on the App Store shows several such apps, some with suggestive names such as Tipsy and Fuzz Alert Pro, some that cost money and some that are free. Alongside these more specialized applications are crowd-sourced, social-network-style apps that can alert users to general police presence on local roads and highways.
A separate press release from Schumer, however, specifically names apps like Trapster and PhantomALERT. These, and other similar apps (which are often free), also alert users to speed traps and red light cameras.
“These applications are nothing more than a how-to guide in avoiding law enforcement and they provide drunk drivers with the tools they need to go undetected, putting innocent families and children at risk. This is a major public safety concern,” Schumer continued. “Along with my colleagues across the country, I am requesting you remove these applications from your online store immediately.”
The full letter, which was also sent to Google’s Eric Schmidt and RIM, can be viewed after the break. Incidentally, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Senator Charles E. Schumer write a letter to Apple. This past Summer Schumer went galavanting for attention when he penned a ridiculous letter to Steve Jobs about reception issues with the iPhone 4.
Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Dear Mr. Forstall,
We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products allow customers to identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints. 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.
We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.
One application, your company acknowledges in the product description, contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real-time. Another application, with more than 10 million users, also allows users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.
Police officers from across the country have voiced concern about these products, with one police captain saying, “If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?” 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.
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. We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.
Thank you for your prompt and careful consideration of this matter. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.