“Technology works great until it doesn’t.” This quote usually refers to the unfortunately frequent occasion of a computer crash or an app that gets information wrong. This quote could also be true when applied to how technology is used. Those who use technology for the good of common man are promoting the ever-increasing march on the field of technological prowess. There are some who wield this weapon for harm, however.
Technology is like spray paint: it’s all about how you use it. Spray paint can be the stuff to cover up an unfortunate scuff on some aluminum furniture or it can litter a train car with obscene images and illegible chicken scratch. It can be spent on a canvas of imagination and wonder or snorted by a pressured preteen with something to prove. This good/bad dichotomy is especially relevant for the controversial DUI Dodger app for iPhone.
The DUI Dodger App
The DUI Dodger app is an iPhone app for DUI checkpoints, basically, a police roadblock app. This app was made available in April of 2011 after its creator got stuck waiting 40 minutes at one of these checkpoints. He had his six-month old child with him. After waiting for 40 minutes just to prove that he was sober, he had the idea of using the publicly available information about the location of police checkpoints and making it more accessible for people, presumably to avoid such a long wait. This app became a big hit, receiving 13,000 downloads in its first year and a half. This is impressive, considering that the app cost $4.99 (a major purchase in the app marketplace).
This app includes these features:
- Locates DUI checkpoints within 50 miles of the user’s current location
- Provides facts and myths about drunk driving
- Grades a person’s stability in an onboard “Walk the Line” game and calculates the blood-alcohol content level of a person based on gender, consumption, weight, and duration of drinking
It should seem obvious why this app would create controversy. The shrewd drinker would know precisely which roads NOT to take home after he’s had a fun night with friends. This app could be used by folks to make them feel better about drunk driving. When the consequences for drunk driving are spotted on a map, they can be easily avoided. A few U.S. Senators even contacted Apple, asking them to remove this and all other apps of the same kind from the app store. Apple did not comply. Even though they can be exploited, apps can’t make people break the law. There is one similar app in the Android store which resembles the DUI Dodger. This is the Checkpoint Wingman app.
The Checkpoint Wingman App
This app is a lot more user-controlled. The information about DUI checkpoints comes from reports issued by app owners. Some of the apps features include:
- Setting a warning radius around the checkpoint
- Adjusting the radius size of the warning zone
- Texting or emailing checkpoint locations to contacts
- Warning message on screen and siren sound when entering a checkpoint radius
As I said earlier, technology can be a force for good or for evil. It all depends on how it is used. The DUI Dodger app and the Checkpoint Wingman App lead us to come face-to-face with the reality that DUI’s are solely the responsibility of the one who tries to drive after drinking too much. The choice is made when you say yes to those one-too-many, not when you download an app. There is nothing to fear except bad traffic if you stay sober and drive safe.