It's getting harder for tech-savvy drivers to pinpoint the locations of police drunken-driving checkpoints: Apple will ban from its online store future applications that inform users of checkpoints not publicized by police.
The move comes three months after four Democratic U.S. senators Charles Schumer of New York, Harry Reid of Nevada, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Tom Udall of New Mexico asked three smartphone manufacturers to quit selling such downloadable apps or to remove the DUI checkpoint function.
Canada-based Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smartphones, pulled the apps immediately.
Apple, maker of the iPhone, and Google, which sells Android-based apps, did not. At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy last month, technology and the law, Schumer pressed Apple and Google executives to restrict sales of such apps.
On Wednesday, Apple updated the review guidelines for its App Store.
"Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected," the new guidelines say.
The senators applauded Apple's move to restrict future apps with the checkpoint functionality but said the company also should remove current ones. "I strongly encourage Apple to take the next responsible step of removing all applications that allow unsafe drivers to evade police checkpoints," Reid said.
Schumer said, "This victory will remain only half-won until the existing apps are removed from the store."
An Apple spokesman, Tom Neumayr, confirmed the change to Apple's app guidelines but said the company would have no further comment.
USA TODAY reported in March on the growing popularity of free or cheap, downloadable applications that help drivers avoid getting nailed for road offenses such as red-light camera violations and speed-trap busts. The report noted that the DUI function of some apps troubled some police agencies, which prompted the senators' request.
Fuzz Alert, one popular app that had the DUI checkpoint function, was altered last month to remove it, Fuzz Alert CEO Steve Croke said.
"Fuzz Alert was not a DUI app and was never intended to be a DUI app," he said. It "was designed as an audio-visual electronic device to warn drivers of traffic enforcement and speed-impediment areas (such as) speed cameras, red-light cameras and road hazards. The DUI aspect was never a core component to Fuzz Alert, so we took it out."