Friday, July 17, 2009

Photo radar? There’s an app for that

Noting that Washington, DC, law enforcement has raked in nearly $1 billion – with a B – from photo radar cameras since 2005, the District’s police chief has naturally condemned an iPhone app that alerts users to the location of speed and red-light photo radar units.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier said using the app is a “cowardly tactic” and vowed the areas various police departments would step up efforts to nail speeders and red-light runners.

Developed by PhantomAlert Corp., the Trapster app uses GPS satellites and user feedback to locate, update and signal iPhone users that they are near a photo radar setup. The DC area has some 290 such setups.

The chief argues that photo radar has reduced collisions and helped to tame the hell-for-leather attitude of many area drivers – who are to my mind no doubt so frustrated after hours of crawling along the Beltway or other so-called “thorough” fares that they can’t help but mash on the pedal.

More than once I’ve spent more time driving from the Baltimore airport into DC than I did getting to my departure airport and flying to Washington.

Personally, this sounds like something that gives you fair warning, just as a sign would, and then it’s up to you to decide whether to stop or back it down. And unlike radar detectors, it’s not illegal.