PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Red light cameras and speed trap cameras are almost everywhere today. And that means there are more hi-tech ways than ever to get a ticket.
But now there are also hi-tech ways to avoid one with new smart phone apps that may keep you from breaking the law. CBS 3 Anchor Susan Barnett reports.
Sometimes Roosevelt Boulevard could be called Roosevelt Raceway.
And ready to catch speeding red light runners are cameras perched high above the streets.
They’ve got red light cameras in Cherry Hill now too.
You may not have noticed them.
But your smart phone or GPS can let you know when you’re approaching one.
Apps like Trapster and PhantomAlert promise to warn you of upcoming red light cameras, speed traps and even sobriety checkpoints.
Domenic Gentile relies on Trapster for his daily commute.
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“With a lot of highway, it’s easy to keep up with the flow of traffic and your speed gets up sometimes,” says Gentile who travels from Reading, Pennsylvania to his pizza shop in Trappe. “I think this app helps remind you, you need to slow down a little bit.”
The apps use information from government agencies and from drivers who can pass along warnings in real time.
“It’s just a 21st century way of flashing headlights,” says PhantomAlert’s CEO Joe Scott.
“In today’s driving conditions where a lot of people are texting, using cell phones, distracted, here is an app that tells people to pay attention,” said Scott.
Armed with the PhantomAlert app, we hit the Boulevard.
Block after block, PhantomAlert was accurate in its red light camera warnings.
And each warning matched up to red light camera locations that are listed on the city’s website.
Cool technology, but there are people who say these apps help drivers who want to break the law.
“If it’s being used for drunk drivers to avoid a security checkpoint then that’s a problem,” said MADD Executive Director Bonnie Weiner.
Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have asked smartphone companies to stop selling the apps or disable the DUI alert feature.
In response BlackBerry has removed PhantomAlert and Trapster from its online apps store.
Not everyone agrees the apps are a danger, though, including Cherry Hill Police Lieutenant William Kushina.
“Well you know they might avoid a checkpoint but most of the drunk driving arrests are by random patrol by uniformed officers on regular patrol that might encounter them and see their driving habits,” said Lt. Kushina.
“We’re giving people the chance to do the right thing, we’ve heard from drivers who told us they were drinking and they launched PhantomAlert, heard there was DUI checkpoint out there and they will stop drinking, they will stop driving and they would ask for a ride,” said Scott.
And Scott insists he is not encouraging motorists to break the law or drive dangerously.
“Drivers who use PhantomAlert are less likely to run red lights, less likely to speed, they’re going to slow down in school zones,” he said.