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Sen. Reid Nudges Apple To Ban Drunk Driving App

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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM) today announced that, in response to their request, Apple Inc., manufacturer of iPhone smartphones, will ban from their online store new applications that help drunk drivers evade police.  In March, the Senators sent a letter to smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, asking them to ban the dangerous applications or alter them to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.  Research in Motion, manufacturer of Blackberry smartphones, immediately complied with the Senators’ request, but Apple and Google initially refused.  At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in May, Senator Schumer again pressed Apple and Google to ban the apps.

 Apple yesterday updated its App Store Review Guidelines, prohibiting the inclusion of DUI checkpoint information in iOS apps.  Section 22.8 of those guidelines now states:  Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected.

 The existing 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 or inexpensive to download from application stores.   The Senators lauded Apple’s decision to ban future applications from their store that enable drunk driving, and urged them to immediately remove existing applications that continue to help drunk drivers evade police.  The Senators said that it was their understanding that Apple was currently reviewing those existing applications.

“I commend Apple, Inc for taking this important first step towards making our roads and neighborhoods safer from drunk drivers,” said Reid.  “However, I strongly encourage Apple to take the next responsible step of removing all applications that allow unsafe drivers to evade police checkpoints.  Far too many families in Nevada and across the country have lost loved ones due to accidents involving drunk drivers, and we must do everything we can to stop more innocent men, women and children from becoming needless victims.”

 “Apple has done the right thing in barring new DUI applications, but this victory will remain only half-won until the existing apps are removed from the store,” said Schumer.  “This is about eliminating tools that people currently have to avoid drunk driving checkpoints, and leaving these dangerous apps online would be a major and dangerous loophole.”

 “Rejecting apps that help drunk drivers evade the police is a common-sense and responsible decision.  While this is a good step forward, we must also ensure that any existing apps are removed,” said U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).  “With someone in our country dying every 50 minutes as a result of an alcohol-related car crash, we need to focus on initiatives to keep drunk drivers off our roads and save lives.”

 “The bottom line is that DWI Checkpoint Apps empower drunk drivers to break the law and, as we know all too well in New Mexico, the consequences can be deadly.  The new Apple policy is progress, and I look forward to their complete removal of the apps. It’s the responsible thing to do,” Udall said.

 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.  Apple yesterday updated its App Store Review Guidelines, prohibiting the inclusion of DUI checkpoint information in iOS apps. 

 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. 

 The full text of the Senators’ March letter can be found here.

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