Apple Caves In, Bans DUI Checkpoint Apps For No Good Reason

from the isn't-the-point-deterrence? dept

We’ve noted that a bunch of senators were on a silly and uninformed grandstanding mission against various apps for the iPhone and Android phones that alert people to the locations of various police DUI checkpoints. Of course, all the grandstanding really did was to massively pump up the sales of those apps. However, it looks like Apple has caved in and banned such apps from the iOS app store. Nick Gillespie does a good job explaining why this doesn’t make much sense. First he points out that most of the data for these apps is crowdsourced, meaning that the app maker really shouldn’t have any responsibility or liability here, but even more to the point, he notes that (as we pointed out originally) police themselves regularly make this info available as a deterrent:

Some police departments actually supply the data used in such apps because they reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads! Somehow, I’m thinking that Steve Jobs circa 1984 (both the year and the ad) would have told U.S. senators sending threatening letters about computer-based info sharing to take a hike. Or at least to spend time on, I don’t know, creating a freaking budget for the country rather than worrying about regulating something that helps reduce impaired driving.

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Comments on “Apple Caves In, Bans DUI Checkpoint Apps For No Good Reason”

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Nick Dynice (profile) says:

People pushing this need to ask themselves this: is the purpose of checkpoints to catch an lock up as many people as they can or to discourage drunk driving? If people know there was going to be a checkpoint at every intersection, don’t you think this would minimize drunk driving overall?

So, grandstanders are for locking people up, while checkpoint awareness advocates (app makers and users) are for reducing drunk driving.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’ve got to be a complete fucking moron to think these apps reduce drunk driving. Those making such claims seem to think that people will be deterred upon looking at the app because they will see that there is a checkpoint “at every checkpoint.” This is astoundingly na?ve thinking. The fact is that there are few actual checkpoints and they are easily avoided by taking alternate routes.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’ve got to be a complete fucking moron to think these apps reduce drunk driving. Those making such claims seem to think that people will be deterred upon looking at the app because they will see that there is a checkpoint “at every checkpoint.” This is astoundingly na?ve thinking. The fact is that there are few actual checkpoints and they are easily avoided by taking alternate routes.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’ve got to be a complete fucking moron to think these apps reduce drunk driving. Those making such claims seem to think that people will be deterred upon looking at the app because they will see that there is a checkpoint “at every checkpoint.” This is astoundingly na?ve thinking. The fact is that there are few actual checkpoints and they are easily avoided by taking alternate routes.

Nick Dynice (profile) says:

You’ve got to be a complete fucking moron to think posting the same comment three times by Anonymous Cowards strengthens their argument. Those Cowards making such claims seem to think that people will be deterred upon looking at the number of duplicate comments. This is astoundingly na?ve thinking. The fact is that there are few duplicate comments and they are rebutted by pointing them out.

Anonymous Coward says:

DUI stops work when they are random. A driver doesn’t know where the stop will be but knows they are out there and therefore doesn’t drink and drive, or takes a gamble with heavy penalties.
This system dramatically reduced drink driving in my country, Ireland, where it was a massive problem.
Having lost friends to drunk drivers in the 80’s, I fully support apple not having the apps up.

A.R.M. (profile) says:

I see an opportunity.

I think it’s time I create an app that will pinpoint the next app to be targeted and removed from Apple’s store.

This way, people will stop wasting their time and money.

UPDATE: Failure. Apple pulled my app, created their own, then blocked access to it because senators didn’t want people knowing they’re targeting apps.

I can see why software patents are big business now. Doing anything else nets a whopping $0.

Anonymous Coward says:

Personally, I would think a system that tells you where such checkpoints are would mainly be used by drunk drivers to avoid detection. In fact, I’d suspect that any study proving that such a system reduced drunk drivers would actually only prove that such a system reduced the detection of drunk drivers.

However, my opinions are largely meaningless, since I don’t really understand the issue at hand. I can’t begin to fathom why anyone would be more afraid of being fined for drunk driving than of dying in a car crash. As such, I’ll leave things to the experts, and hope that whatever steps are taken reduce the number of drunk drivers to the lowest level possible.

Dotcommie (profile) says:

Uneducated politicians once again are the problem...

The whole reason we have the checkpoints these apps were made for is because of the lack of thinking and competent research by our “Representatives”.

Here’s what the majority said in the case that made DUI checkpoints legal:

“Drunk drivers cause an annual death toll of over 25,000[[*]] and in the same time span cause nearly one million personal injuries and more than five billion dollars in property damage.”

…And here’s some facts that the majority “should” have known back then when they decided the public safety concern outweighed the “limited intrusion” of our privacy, as shown by the breakdown by one of the dissenting justices:

“in 1988 there were 18,501 traffic fatalities involving legally intoxicated persons. If one subtracts from this number the 10,210 legally intoxicated drivers who were themselves killed in these crashes, there remain 8,291 fatalities in which somebody other than the intoxicated driver was killed in an accident involving legally intoxicated persons (this number still includes, however, accidents in which legally intoxicated pedestrians stepped in front of sober drivers and were killed). Fatal Accident Reporting System 1988 Overview, p. 1; see also n. 15, supra.

By contrast, in 1986 there were a total of 19,257 murders and non negligent manslaughters. Of these, approximately 11,360 were committed with a firearm, and another 3,850 were committed with some sort of knife. U. S. Dept. of Justice, 1987 Source book of Criminal Justice Statistics 337 (1988).

From these statistics, it would seem to follow that someone who does not herself drive when legally intoxicated is more likely to be killed by an armed assailant than by an intoxicated driver. The threat to life from concealed weapons thus appears comparable to the threat from drunken driving.

Nowadays with the safety advances, awareness, and greater amount of cars on the road, you’re even more likely to die from these causes first:

28.77 times more likely to be killed by a sober driver
13.52 times more likely to die from a fall
8.52 times more likely to be poisoned
4.57 times more likely to die from an injury at work
3.66 times more likely to drown
2.92 times more likely to choke to death
2.34 times more likely to die while under a doctor?s care

iveseenitall says:

I’m worried anytime censor is used to block transparency.
‘Of course, the bigger issue here is that a representative for the US government is asking private companies to censor software and putting significant public pressure on them to do so.’

Anonymous Coward says:


All of these statutes that I have read require only that law enforcement agencies provide notice that there will be random checkpoints. This is a far cry from providing notice about specific locations.

If you can find such a statute I would be pleased to learn about it so that I can learn more about the subject. Thus far I have not found one.

Anonymous Coward says:

On the one hand, I think that randomly stopping some driver and forcing them to prove they’re not drunk when there was no probable cause to believe they were drunk in the first place is a blatant violation of the Constitution. And I also think that attempting to prevent anyone from communicating factual information to anyone else is a violation of the Constitution in almost every case.

But on the other hand, this claim that listing the locations of the checkpoints “helps reduce impaired driving” is as flagrantly stupid as the flagrantly stupid claims that radar detectors reduce speeding.

Dotcommie (profile) says:


The ones that “require” notifying the public have done so to make sure they’ll be on proper legal grounds for anyone that decides to challenge it. (aka:Covering their asses)

Since these checkpoints all survive only because they’re considered a “reasonable” seizure under the 4th amendment since the public safety need outweighs the “minor intrusion” on the public. Checkpoints that are set up without road signs warning motorists in advance and/or are set up on a road which provides the motorist no means to do a U-turn or otherwise avoid it run the risk of being declared “unreasonable” when challenged in court.

That’s mainly because the courts have noted that with proper warnings, the public won’t be surprised by it and won’t be in a situation where they feel they’re being singled out. That’s also the reason the checkpoints are usually set up on busy roads and not some side road off the beaten path where the encounter would be more intimidating and unexpected.

There are a few somewhat smaller factors that can be used to find the way they do it reasonable or unreasonable, but those are the main points at issue here at least.

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

In the UK people complain about the police hiding behind bushes with their radar guns to catch speeding motorists. While I would agree this does seem a little underhand. At the same time all motorists are supposed to know the speed limits of the roads they are driving on. Nearly all roads have their speed limits clearly marked and for the few that don’t their are clear guide lines as to the likely speed maximum limit being imposed on that road.

At the end of the day the public have a clear idea of the law on these matters. We’re not talking about some lawyer using a little known loophole to bait and trap someone.

If you are in possession of drugs or other illegal substances or are breaking the speed limit for the road you’re driving on or drunk at the wheel then you’re breaking the law irrespective of being caught or not.

In that sense I see little justification for a law abiding citizen to make the claim they “need” these apps. Unless there are broader implications here I don’t see why this should be an issue.

DannyB (profile) says:


But think of the taxpayer dollars saved by locking people up by keeping the checkpoints secret!

If intoxicated people took a cab instead of driving because they knew there would be checkpoints, think of the money lost in the economy due to increased cab fares! Not to mention how badly it affects road safety to have these dangerous cab drivers transporting intoxicated passengers.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:


1) Secret checkpoint locations will only increase the number of convictions in a small, local area. It will do little to reduce overall DUI.

2) Publicized random checkpoints will scare some people into compliance, and will reduce the amount of overall DUI. But it allows an “entrapment” defense.

3) Publicized locations of checkpoints will scare some people into compliance, but probably fewer than #2). You will get slightly fewer convictions, as some drunks use the app to re-route. However, publicizing locations disempowers the entrapment argument. I still think there could be a 4th Amendment argument made in defense – there is no reasonable suspicion in a random traffic checkpoint. The laws around our privacy were not designed to make law enforcement easy, they were designed to protect us from intrusive and overbearing government. Nonetheless, many enforcement divisions choose this option.

4) Repeating DUI checkpoint locations to friends, building a crowdsourced app, or even a centrally sourced app of checkpoint data is a free speech issue. If there is a checkpoint, citizens should have the right to say there is a checkpoint. Plain and simple. This may make policework harder, but tough, our Rights are of higher importance. The Gov’t should not interfere with the freaking First Amendment – that is illegal. Apple shouldn’t either, but it is not illegal, just a douche move.

I’ll say it again: There is an Aesop’s Fable about the Dog and The Wolf. The dog is the Apple user, the Wolf is the Open system user. I’m a wolf, and it’s a struggle. May the Apple users enjoy their leash.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s this misconception going around, saying that crowdsourcing makes the developer immune to “whatever”, as the author seemed to imply. In reality, he could be accused of aiding and embedding, because he gave tools to people that permitted them to break the law more easily (or safer?).

In any case, the programmer/coder/owner is in no way immune to these laws.

Now… before the fanboys jump at me and try to rip my throat off, I completely agree it was ridiculous for Apple to pull the plug. They are (or will probably be shortly) already available elsewhere… if you know where to look.

Anonymous Coward says:


1) Ok.. you have a point.
2) You fail epicly if you believe that’s true, even by a long shot. People will take another route, that’s it. Why are there so many recidivists? Yeah.
3) Defending yourself already? I guess you got caught a few times yourself, huh?
4) Telling friends (word to mouth) is NOT like broadcasting it on TV or the Radio or all your friend’s portable devices. See “Aiding and abetting”.

And yeah, I much prefer my wireless “leash” to your invisible one.

Anonymous Coward says:


Yet you insist that the right to bear arms should be in the constitution. Have you ever been to Eu? Watch TV there? There, you see sex, porn, etc etc… turn on American TV, “I’ll keeeel you mother******” boom bang pow etc. And why don’t we hear stories about off duty cops killing everyone? Yeah. Your country is a joke, and people are pointing and laughing. When will you wake up?

Wolfy says:

I didn’t read through all the comments, but I wonder how amny people get the fact the DUI laws (like most behavioral laws) may have started out with noble intentions, but have evolved into revenue streams for the cops and courts? The laws permitting auction of assets _suspected_ to be derived from drug sales and _prior to conviction_ were the heads up in that area. It’s no longer about law enforcement, but a milking of the general population, for funding purposes.

Dotcommie (profile) says:

Drinking and Driving

How do you know the person was “drunk”? Many times if you’re in an accident(there are many CAUSED by redlight cameras BTW), they will say it’s “alochol-related” or charge you with DUI even if your BAC is something like .01-.06. They can say because you got in an accident and were disoriented or confused(which many people after bad accidents are) that’s proof that you were impaired.

The fact is only 2,932 innocent people were killed because of drunk drivers in 2002….and the numbers have only gone down. In 2009 there were 10,839 total deaths versus 13,472 in 2002, so obviously the innocent victims of drunk driving would be even less now.

Not to mention the increase of the number of cars on the road means we have more cars, more people driving, more people driving after drinking(but not drunk), and likely more people driving over the limit also….yet we’re at the lowest chance of being effected by a drunk driver ever and the death numbers have gone down. On the other hand, the % has stayed the same for decades because you can’t stop drunk driving with laws, it’s predominantly an emotional problem/disease. Non-alcohol fatalities have been right at 62% and alcohol fatalities have stayed at 32% for 10+ years.

Still think MADD does ANYTHING besides pay themselves higher salaries and try to get us closer to prohibition? If you do, you don’t believe in your own government statistics that MADD used to convince you deaths have gone down because of their efforts in the 1st place. (Sure they’ve gone down, but so have the total fatalities…percentage-wise though, nope.)

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