The head of a company that makes a downloadable application enabling users to pinpoint police drunken-driving checkpoints says his sales have doubled after efforts by four senators to restrict such apps.
Steve Croke, CEO of Fuzz Alert, also said he might remove the checkpoint-locating capability to prove that the app is not designed to help people drive drunk.
"It's like an electrical version of the warning signs you see for curves ahead and so forth," said Croke, 42. "This is nothing but a warning device, to let people know that they potentially are in an area where you should watch your speed."
A USA TODAY story in March noted the growing popularity of apps that allow drivers to pinpoint such police enforcement tools as red-light and speeding cameras, speed traps and sobriety checkpoints. Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Harry Reid of Nevada, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Tom Udall of New Mexico asked smartphone makers Apple, Google and Research in Motion to quit selling apps that allow drivers to locate checkpoints, or to disable that function. Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, agreed.
During a hearing last week before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Schumer pressed Alan Davidson, Google's director of public policy, and Guy Tribble, Apple's vice president of software technology, to do more. One consideration, Tribble said, is that the apps in some cases simply distribute information published by local police departments.
"I don't know of a police department that would publish in real time where all the checkpoints will be," Schumer said, referring to the apps as "smartphone apps that enable drunk driving." He elicited a commitment from Davidson and Tribble to review the apps and report back to the Senate within a month on whether the apps violate their company policies.
Schumer specifically cited Fuzz Alert as he talked about "apps that put the public at serious risk."
That is an inaccurate characterization, said Croke, who said sales have increased 100% and that his 99-cent app is now in the top three among navigation apps. "I feel I'm unfairly being accused of building a DUI checkpoint app," Croke said.
He said he designed the app after getting a speeding ticket last year near his home in Steamboat Springs, Colo. "For whatever reason, I just wasn't paying attention," he said. "I consider myself a very safe driver. Before that, I hadn't had a ticket in 15 years. I'm contemplating taking the DUI portion out. "The reason why I built the app was to help people drive safer."
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