Google Maps does a lot more than provide directions for drivers. Among its many features, drivers who have an iPhone are able to see and report alerts. Police think that advance notice of police locations think may be a danger to public safety. Google and advocates for the app claim that the reverse is true – that when drivers know the police are nearby, they take extra precautions to slow down which helps with driver safety.

The Washington Post reported the story about Google Maps including information about crashes, speed traps, and traffic slowdowns in real time. US law enforcement has expressed a direct concern about using the apps to report checkpoints. Random checkpoints are created by the police to help deter and detect drivers who drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. The checkpoints are required to meet certain protocols such as advance notice to the public. The New York Police department complained to Google about the apps, claming that “Revealing the location of checkpoints puts drivers, their passengers, and the general public at risk.” The NY Police Department demanded that Waze cease proving drivers alerts about existing checkpoints.

The NYPD said it is discussing with Google a balance between making roads safer for drivers while not impeding the ability of law enforcement to do its job.

The dispute is not the first in the technology center between tech companies and law enforcement. Recently, Amazon “fought law enforcement on subpoenaing recordings from one of its Echo speakers that may have been witness to a murder. “Eventually Amazon agreed to release them.

The ability to alert drivers of DUI checkpoints is not completely new. The Washington Post story reported that “German radio stations alert drivers to the locations of speed traps on the Autobahn. “Drivers can flash their headlights to oncoming drivers that a checkpoint or a police vehicle is nearby. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Nextdoor also have ways to alert drivers.

In one notable case, a man in Ohio had a sign warning drivers that a checkpoint was ahead. He was arrested but the charges were later dropped.

Google Maps will also alert users of

  • Objects in the road
  • Lane closures
  • Construction and disabled vehicles

People are being pretty slick about DUI checkpoints

Google Maps app does allow users to look for speed traps, but it doesn’t alert drivers to sobriety checkpoints. Waze does, however, let uses report “police” and “camera” locations and add comments – so that it’s fairly clear a checkpoint is nearby.

There’s also the law of unintended consequences. Telling drivers to avoid a certain location can cause lots of drivers to find alternate routes. “In one example, a quiet Maryland street suddenly became inundated with several hundred cars an hour after Waze routed vehicles there. The situation led an exasperated homeowner to submit false reports of a blockage on the street in an attempt to trick the algorithm. He was unsuccessful.”

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we are experienced DUI defense attorneys. We contest the validity of breath tests and sobriety tests, fight to show the police did not have grounds to stop you, work to reduce charges to less serious traffic offenses, and challenge every part of the prosecution’s case according to current law and the facts. For help with any DUI charge, call our DUI lawyers serving Annapolis, Ellicott City and Centreville at 410.777.8103, or complete our contact form.

And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.