The Philadelphia DUI Law Blog

Do Mobile Apps Like PhantomAlert Encourage Drunk Driving?

Many Philadelphia residents may have heard of the popular mobile application known as PhantomAlert, which has over 1 million subscribers in both the United States and Canada. The app tracks and warns drivers about the locations of DUI checkpoints, red light and speed cameras, potholes, and other traffic problems.

Many drivers consider the app as an incredibly useful tool, but PhantomAlert developer Joe Scott said four U.S. senators have condemned apps like his, saying they only encourage "people to drink and drive and evade detection." According to Investor's Business Daily, Senators Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, and Mark Udall have asked Research in Motion (RIM), Apple, and Google to remove PhantomAlert from its stores.

CNET News reported RIM, the creators of BlackBerry phones, has complied to the senators’ request and took down PhantomAlert along with other similar mobile apps from its stores without sharing its decision with Scott. “It’s just sad … We’re more than just DUI checkpoints,” said Scott. “We do school zones, speed bumps, and we’re endorsed by over 35 police departments.”

With the removal of his app from RIM’s stores, Joe Scott raised his concerns about the precedent the action might set for the senators to go after other similar mobile tools that could also provide information regarding DUI checkpoints and traffic cameras. For instance, what if people start “tweeting” about police checkpoints or posting such information on Facebook?

“Are they going to go after Twitter, are they going to go after Facebook?” wondered Scott. “I don’t think that’s the right approach.”

Meanwhile, Apple has not yet addressed the senators’ request, but Google said they only “remove apps that violate our Android content policies,” stating that traffic apps like PhantomAlert “do not appear to violate those policies.”

For more general information on DUI checkpoints and drunk driving in Philadelphia, visit the Related Resources links below.

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