Google and Waze Must Stop Sharing Drunken-Driving Checkpoints, New York Police Demand

Helen Witty, the national president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was reluctant to address the specifics of the letter without more information, but she noted that sobriety checkpoints were frequently publicized in advance and that even when drivers were warned about them, they served their purpose.

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People who use the Waze app’s police reporting feature can leave detailed comments on the cartoonish icon of a mustachioed officer.

“If you are impaired, you are not going to pay attention to that information,” she said, adding that in her experience, drunken drivers coming through sobriety checkpoints were often very confused or unaware of what was happening.

“We want these things publicized,” she said, because “one of the major efforts is education.”

She added: “The goal is to make everyone aware that if you drink, don’t drive, and if you drive, don’t drink.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sobriety checkpoints reduce the risk of drunken driving crashes by 20 percent.

Google has previously faced pressure over Waze’s police location reports. After the fatal shooting of two New York police officers in December 2014, law enforcement officials called for the feature to be removed over concerns that it threatened officers’ safety.

Charlie Beck, Los Angeles’s police chief at the time, wrote a letter that month to Google saying the app allowed people to target officers. Two months later, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, a New York City police union, followed with another letter. Both men pointed to media reports that the man who killed the two New York police officers had posted screenshots from Waze on social media.

Around the same time, near the start of 2015, the National Sheriffs’ Association began a campaign urging Google to remove its police reporting feature from Waze, citing the potential for the app to be used to attacks police officers.

On Wednesday, the executive director of the sheriffs’ association, Jonathan F. Thompson, said Waze’s police feature seemed designed to enable people to circumvent law enforcement.