U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Tom Udall (D-NM) today urged smartphone makers to no longer offer software applications that help drunk drivers evade police, calling the applications "harmful to public safety." In a letter to Google, Blackberry and Apple, Inc., the senators acknowledged the companies' commitment to social responsibility and asked that the applications be removed from online stores or else altered to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.
"Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern," the senators said. "We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration."
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. Given the harmful effect drunk driving has on families and society, the senators asked that the smartphone manufacturers stop facilitating access to this technology through their online stores.
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.
The following is the text of today's letter to smartphone manufacturers:
March 22, 2011
Chief Executive Officer
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
James L. Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis
Research In Motion
295 Phillip Street
Canada N2L 3W8
Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
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.