“Police reported ahead” is a common phrase heard on a drive using the crowd-sourced navigation app Waze. Added to the app in real time by nearby users, it’s one of numerous alerts sent to drivers about upcoming obstacles on a route. Many users view it as a harmless way to avoid getting speeding tickets, but others use the app to point out police checkpoints, including those setup for DUI prevention. The New York Police Department (NYPD) wants it to stop.
Written about by the The New York Times and reported by Streetsblog, the NYPD sent a cease-and-desist letter to Waze’s owner, Google. It insisted the app’s capabilities should not be allowed and could even be considered illegal.
“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,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters and lawyer Ann P. Prunty said in the letter.
“The posting of such information for public consumption is irresponsible since it only serves to aid impaired and intoxicated drivers to evade checkpoints and encourage reckless driving. Revealing the location of checkpoints puts those drivers, their passengers, and the general public at risk.”
By design, Waze is not directly at fault, as the application does not have a feature that specifically calls out checkpoints. However, once the police alert is selected, users can then add custom details about why the police are in that location. Waze also has functionality to call out speed cameras.
Although this might seem like it is interfering with proper justice and helps those who are potentially breaking the law, the reality is that it’s an advancement in technology that makes word of mouth easier. This is theoretically no different from somebody driving past a DUI checkpoint and group-texting friends or posting to a local Reddit message board. Telling people something exists is not against the law.
Based on a statement given to the the NYT, Google likely agrees and doesn’t sound like it plans to change the app.
“… informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road,” Google stated, adding that safety is of upmost importance.
As of the reports, no official legal action has been taken. We will update the story if and when more information surfaces.