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Apple, Google and RIM to ban drunk-driving apps Add to ...

If you've ever tried any of the dozen or so DUI or drunk driving apps, you probably found them to be generally pointless, while others were useful to drivers looking to avoid police checkpoints. Whatever they were meant to do, they're all gone now.

Apple, Google and RIM have all made moves to review and remove any apps that may encourage drunk driving by indicating where these checkpoints are at any given time. The move was initiated by four U.S. senators who wrote letters to the three smartphone makers, asking them to take down the apps as soon as possible.

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RIM moved quickly and got rid of them back in March when the letter first circulated. However, Apple and Google refused to budge. Only last week did Apple finally agree to start purging the App Store of drunk driving-related apps and rejecting new entrants as well.

Section 22.8 of the revised review guideline states, "Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected."

This affects existing apps Apple and Google offer like DUI Dodger, Mr. DUI, Buzzed and Checkpoint Wingman, among others.

Though the whole situation has been limited to the jurisdiction of U.S. lawmakers, the removal will also apply to everyone in Canada and other countries as well. iPhone owners who have the apps installed on their devices will still be able to use them, but since they will no longer be updated, they're basically useless. Most of them cost between $0.99 to a few dollars, and there will be no refunds, either.

While they focused on DUI apps, the letter went further and included any apps that help drivers know where speed traps and red-light cameras are located. There are plenty of apps for that on all three smartphone platforms.

The guideline makes no mention of them, so they should be fine for now. But it raises the question of whether they truly encourage dangerous driving or not. The DUI apps may be poor in taste, but they also reported checkpoints law enforcement publicly announced and listed, along with those passed on by other motorists.

Drinking and driving isn't a good idea at any time, and the risk from drunk drivers is significantly higher compared to drivers who just want to be warned of a speed trap so they don't get dinged with a ticket. On the other hand, not knowing increases the risk drivers take of getting nabbed when leaning more heavily on the gas pedal.

The issue ultimately comes down to whether drivers can use crowd-sourcing techniques and technology - in other words, the ability to communicate information to an accessible central map that can potentially change driver behaviour - to let each other know about driving obstacles.

Removing the DUI apps isn't a bad thing at all, but if it goes on to include speed traps and red-light camera warning apps, then that would be taking it a little too far.

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