NYPD demands Waze app removes feature that reveals drunk driving checkpoints

NEW YORK — If you use Google’s Waze app to help get you where you’re going, you know the alerts about accidents and police activity can help you avoid traffic tie-ups.

The app also has user-submitted information about drunk driving checkpoints and areas where officers are enforcing speed limits.

The New York Police Department has an issue with that.

The NYPD sent Google a letter demanding the immediate removal of the feature which allows users to report police activity or speed cameras, PIX11 reported.

“Individuals who post the locations of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of the DWI laws and other relevant criminal and traffic laws,” the NYPD wrote in the letter.

Google sent a statement to PIX11 that read, “Safety is a top priority when developing navigation features at Google. We believe that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decision when they’re on the road.”

Just last week, Waze announced a partnership with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority. The company installed beacons in tunnels, which allow drivers to continue receiving directions, even if they lose GPS signal, PIX11 reported.

According to the New York Times, Waze does not allow drivers to specifically identify sobriety checkpoints. But the app’s police reporting feature allows users to leave detailed comments.

Helen Witty, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was reluctant to address the specifics of the letter without more information, the New York Times reported.

But she said that sobriety checkpoints were frequently publicized in advance and that even when drivers were warned about them, they served their purpose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sobriety checkpoints reduce the risk of crashes caused by drunk driving by about 20-percent.

Jonathon Thompson, the executive director of the sheriffs’ association, told the New York Times the Waze police feature seemed like it was designed to help people get around law enforcement.

“Using crowdsourcing doesn’t stop you from breaking the law,” he told the New York Times. “It just allows you to be prevented from being arrested. That’s a direct undermining of the rule of law.”

Thompson did say he thought the app has some redeeming qualities like it’s hazard and accident feature.

The Los Angeles police department sent a similar request to Google back in 2015.

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