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BlackBerry Will Remove Apps That Help Drunk Drivers Evade Police

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 04:11 PM

This in from Senator Frank Lautenberg's Office:

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Tom Udall (D-NM) announced that, in response to their request, Research In Motion (RIM), manufacturer of Blackberry smartphones, will remove from their online store applications that help drunk drivers evade police.  Yesterday the senators sent a letter to smartphone companies, including RIM, asking them to remove the dangerous applications or alter them to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.

The applications pinpoint police enforcement zones through user-submitted information that connects to GPS data, providing drivers with the ability to evade DUI checkpoints, speed traps, and red light cameras. The applications are free to download from application stores.   The senators lauded RIM’s decision and renewed their call for other smartphone manufactures to follow suit.

“Drunk drivers will soon have one less tool to evade law enforcement and endanger our friends and families,” said the senators in joint statement.  “We appreciate RIM’s immediate reply and urge the other smartphone makers to quickly follow suit.

The applications in question help drivers identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints, allowing offenders to escape detection.  One application 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.

Law enforcement agents across the country have voiced concern over 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?”

The dangers of drunk driving are well-documented. One person dies every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving accident, and more than 10,000 Americans die in drunk-driving crashes each year.

Senator Lautenberg has fought to reduce drunk driving and underage drinking throughout his tenure in Congress.  Senator Lautenberg wrote the law that lowered the legal blood alcohol limit to .08 in all 50 states.  He also authored the law that established a national legal drinking age of 21, which has helped save thousands of lives across the country.

Last month, Senators Lautenberg and Tom Udall introduced legislation to keep drunk drivers off the road by requiring the use of ignition interlock technology for all convicted drunk driving offenders.  Click here for more information.

Yesterday, the four senators sent a letter to the smartphone makers Research in Motion, Google Inc., and Apple Inc, asking them to remove these apps from their online store.  Today, a RIM representative thanked the senators for bringing the issue to the company’s attention and said that they would comply with the senators’ request to address the applications, likely within the day.

The full text of yesterday’s letter is below:

Eric Schmidt

Chief Executive Officer

Google, Inc.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway

Mountain View, CA 94043

James L. Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis

Research In Motion

295 Phillip Street

Waterloo, Ontario

Canada N2L 3W8

Mr. Scott Forstall

Senior Vice President, iPhone Software

Apple, Inc.

1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Mr. Schmidt, Balsillie, Lazaridis and Forstall,

We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for Apple, Blackberry and Android operating systems for smartphones 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 applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.

We know that your companies share our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store unless they are altered to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.

One application 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 make these applications unavailable 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.

Sincerely,

Senator Reid

Senator Schumer

Senator Lautenberg

Senator Udall

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