NYPD threatens Waze, claims posting DWI checkpoints may be 'criminal conduct'

Frederick Owens
February 9, 2019

Waze doesn't provide the data itself, but allows users to insert checkpoint markers on a map and add information to the icon, such as whether it's a DWI roadblock.

More directly, the company says that safety is its biggest concern when new features are being developed and tested and that informing drivers about "speed traps" helps drivers make safer decisions.

The Waze app works much like Google Maps but it includes crowd-sourced functions that allow users to flag various driving conditions, including accidents, DWI checkpoints, and so-called "speed traps".

Helen Witty, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the New York Times that while DWI checkpoints were usually publicized in advance, they still served their objective.

The application in question is Waze, a community-based navigation app that allows users to report auto accidents, traffic jams, and police activity. "Revealing the location of checkpoints puts those drivers, their passengers, and the general public at risk", Prunty adds in the letter, which was first reported by StreetsBlog NYC.

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"We want these things publicised", she said, because "one of the major efforts is education".

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sobriety checkpoints - first introduced in the USA in the 1980s - reduced alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes by roughly 20 percent in each category.

Unlike regular Google Maps, the Waze app lets drivers report obstacles, traffic, mobile speed cameras and "DWI checkpoints", known locally as random breath test (RBT) stops or booze buses. It wouldn't be possible to easily remove exclusively for users in the NY area so the features would be removed entirely in that eventuality. Both men pointed to news reports that the man who killed the two NY police officers had posted screenshots from Waze on social media. It's unknown whether it plans to bring over the DWI checkpoint feature from Waze. In 2015, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck criticized the application and claimed that its existence could jeopardize the safety of police officers as it is "not always in the public's interest to know where police are operating".

I shouldn't have to point this out, but posting that information does not "only" aid intoxicated drivers. It insisted the app's capabilities should not be allowed and could even be considered illegal.

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