New Jersey News: Legislators Fume over Smartphone Apps Identifying Drunken Driving Checkpoints, Sobriety Roadblocks

Forget word of mouth, iPhones and Blackberrys are bringing more and more information to everyone’s fingertips. In the office, at home and in the car, smartphones do more than dial your lawyer after a drunk driving arrest. In fact, these devices have raised the rancor of some lawmakers around the country due to a peculiar type of app that millions of people seem to be taking advantage of.

As New Jersey DWI attorneys, we know that the state is legally bound to publish the times and locations of pending sobriety roadblocks, also known as drunk driving checkpoints. Even so, the Apple iPhone and other smart devices support programs that will also tell a driver when and where they might be stopped and ticketed for driving under the influence. But these methods are being criticized.

According to recent news reports, several U.S. senators have requested companies such as Google, Research in Motion and Apple to deep-six applications that help motorists avoid DWI-DUI checkpoints as well as speed traps. These applications — or apps, as they are better known — go by names like Trapster, iRadar and PhantomAlert. In fact, there are even other apps that reportedly tell drivers where red light cameras are situated and whether or not a driver is heading into a school zone.

Based on reports coming out of CBS News, one of the DWI checkpoint alert apps is apparently highly accurate, if only because it works off of a database of drunken driving checkpoints that is updated moment to moment. Another one, which reportedly already has 10 million users, allows a driver to alert others in his or her area to the location of a drunk driving or DUI roadblock.

While the action of some legislators has been to request companies to remove these applications completely, other state officials seem to be saying it’s not all that bad. According to a spokesperson for one state’s department of transportation, if these programs make drivers think twice about taking a drink before getting behind the wheel, then it’s probably a good thing.

Naturally, time will tell if lawmakers try to come down hard on the purveyors of smartphones and the designers and marketers of these DWI-avoiding applications. Until then, police departments in counties like Monmouth, Sussex and Union will continue to place notifications in local news papers and other media sites to advise drivers of future drunk driving and drug DUI checkpoints. As legally required, one would assume that this kind of DWI roadblock notification is acceptable to most legislators.

‘Yes, there’s an app for that,’ but some senators want it banned,, April 1, 2011

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