DUI Checkpoint Dodger App Controversy

In Campus News, News

With memorial weekend approaching, local authorities are preparing for the holiday weekend filled with crazy parties and drunk drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 11,000 people die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes each year, about one every 48 minutes. And the holidays have become the biggest days to look out for drunk drivers.

But instead of re-thinking their holiday binge drinking, many people are now able to continue their party plans thanks to new smartphone applications that allow users to know when and where a DUI checkpoint has popped up.

The newest app, the DUI Dodger, lets people check the nearest DUI checkpoints within a 50 mile radius and add new ones they happen to see. The application also allows the users to check their Blood Alcohol Content level through a series of questions, see facts and myths on drunk driving, and even provides a “walk the line” test to measure their balance.

The listings are refreshed every 24 hours, and the app allows users to “flag” a listing that is inaccurate. The goal of the application, according to its press release, is to lead to increased awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.

Kelly McLeod, 21, an entertainment studies major, disagrees with the idea that the app allows drinkers to feel safer. “It is a total selfish thought of security … because they are completely worried about their well-being while they are being ignorant to the safety of others out and about,” said McLeod.

In the DUI Dodger press release, it mentions that “the idea is that information is power, and people will be less inclined to drink and drive if they know that there is a checkpoint in their area.” But many are skeptical as to the application’s true intentions.

“I think it’s somewhat hypocritical to say they’re stopping (drinking and driving) through this app … If they wanted to provide that type of information, they could do it in a better way than providing people with the opportunity to leave a checkpoint,” said criminal justice Professor Kevin Meehan, Ph.D.

DUI checkpoints have received criticism in the past for their inability to make arrests at checkpoints, and rolling patrols, which send officers into the streets, are a better way to catch drunk drivers. But as Barbara Harsha, the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told USAToday, “The goal is not to write tickets or make arrests, but rather to remind the public that they should drive sober or face serious consequences.”

University Police Lt. John Brockie said there are many factors that go into picking the spot for a DUI checkpoint, mainly “a safe location where vehicles have a chance to slow and stop and where we are not going to adversely deter traffic,” said Brockie.

And more often police choose public places where mass amounts of drinkers are forced to pass through, such as right outside the Anaheim Honda Center.

“By the time you’re in that line of traffic there’s not much you can do because there’s nowhere to turn … So I think (checkpoints) are going to fulfill their purpose whether there’s an app or not,” said Meehan.

But the ability to map out a route to avoid the authorities while under the influence still troubles many individuals. Four Democratic senators of Nevada, New York, New Jersey and New Mexico are fighting against this technological innovation that enables people to drink all they want knowing they can avoid the law.

They have pushed Apple, Google and Blackberry to quit selling the app that allows drivers to spot DUI checkpoints, and so far only Blackberry has agreed.

At some point, the application will go to court to question the validity of its campaign, but until then drivers need to learn how to use the information given to them to prevent further accidents, not cause them.

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