Another DUI Smartphone App Hits the Market. Does This One Encourage Drunk Driving?
One tech industry growth area seems to be the DUI smartphone app. A quick search of Google’s Play Store reveals no less than a hundred of them. A few are joke apps, a number are attached to breathalyzers that plug into one’s phone, but a great many of them are there to help you if you find yourself arrested for DUI.
What can a DUI smartphone app do for an alleged drunk driver? One of the most recent apps to appear, called DueyDialer, gives its purpose as “legal representation for DUI.” You open the app, click a button, and are connected to a lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, the app will choose one for you.
Apart from finding an attorney, DueyDialer (and a number of similar apps) records what goes on in your vehicle so that the lawyer, and presumably the court, have a record of the arrest.
Not everyone who has heard about the app is delighted. In New York, according to news reports, some attorneys worry that the recording could work against their clients.
For others, such apps possess an “ick-factor” because they seem to be encouraging or excusing drunk driving, though the app’s makers state that this is not the case. DueyDialer is described in interviews as a marketing tool for lawyers, who sign up to be contacted when someone in their state is in trouble.
Drunk driving has been a fertile area for smartphone programmers for years now. It was back in 2011 that Apple banned DUI checkpoint finder apps from its store. Google, however, has no problem with them. The apps stay on this side of the law, since police are required to announce sobriety checkpoint locations before setting them up anyway. Yet the stigma remains: there’s a difference between announcing a DUI checkpoint beforehand to satisfy the law, and warning drivers that they will be stopped if they don’t turn back now?
Whatever you think of DUI smartphone apps and checkpoint warnings, one question needs to be asked: why are alleged drunk drivers the only one to get such a resource? The most common crimes in the US are larceny/theft, burglary, vehicle theft, assault, and robbery. Yet there aren’t any specific apps for people accused of embezzlement or forgery. You can’t tap an app if you’ve been hauled in for stealing a Camry. There’s no “Whoops, I Was Arrested Breaking Into a House and Making Off With a Laptop” application to get you out of trouble. Drunk Driving is the only crime with its own suite of software to ease alleged offenders’ legal burden.
The reason might be that there is an enduring contingent of people who are suspicious of those who pursue drunk drivers, whether they be police, the courts, or safety organizations. Those who object to anti-DUI efforts consider them all either a racket designed to collect money or evidence of the erosion of constitutional rights. And that’s at the heart of the controversy: deep down, too many people believe that drunk driving is a constitutional right, or somehow connected to one. These people need to understand that drunk driving is a dangerous crime, and a totally preventable one. It’s a message that doesn’t always get through and unfortunately, there’s no app for that.