Four U.S. senators are asking Apple, Google, Research in Motion and BlackBerry App World to stop selling apps that the senators believe encourage drunk driving. Though no apps were named specifically, U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) wrote that they were concerned about programs that alerted drivers to the location of DUI checkpoints in their vicinity.
“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?’” the senators wrote in a letter to the companies. “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 apps in question include programs like Checkpointer by Ace Baron, which updates users about the location of DUI or DWI checkpoints daily. Other apps like Fuzz Alert Pro by Fuzz Alert tell people about speed traps, red light cameras and DUI/DWI check points in their area. In Checkpointer’s product description, they pointed out that their app might prevent people from drinking and driving if they know there is a high possibility they could get caught on the way home, but the senators aren’t buying it. They are more concerned that people are using these apps to find a route home that won’t slap them with a DUI or DWI.
So far, only Research in Motion has responded by saying they will remove the apps from their store. The App Store did change its guidelines in September to block any apps that “encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances, or encourage minors to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes.” Technically, these apps aren’t telling their subjects to go have a drink and drive home, but they are making it easier for them to do so. It will be interesting to see how Apple and the other companies rule on this issue and other recent cases regarding apps that seem to bend the rules without breaking them.