Drivers Use Technology and a Social Network to Dodge Cops

By: Gerri L. Elder

The best way not to get stopped while driving, ticketed, arrested in a police speed trap and sitting next to a criminal defense attorney in court is fairly simple – you just have to avoid speeding. However, some tech-savvy drivers have found a way beyond radar detectors to have their cake and eat it too, or so it seems on the surface. Enter Trapster, a cell phone social network in which drivers alert other drivers about the location of speed traps.

As long as there have been speeding cars, there have been police on the road trying to catch them. In some jurisdictions the revenue from traffic tickets really supports the bottom line. So to cops, speeders aren’t all that bad – as long as they are caught, issued citations and pay a fine. By setting up speed traps, police are able to write a lot of speeding tickets and thus generate a lot of revenue.

On the other hand, as long as there have been speeding tickets, there have been drivers trying to beat them. According to a report by CNN, Trapster is the latest system that speeding drivers are utilizing in an attempt to avoid speeding tickets.

Pete Tenereillo of Carlsbad, California, developed the Trapster service, which allows drivers to use the cell phone social network to communicate with other drivers in real-time to send and receive warnings about speed traps that police have set up. Trapster offers free memberships and software that can be downloaded to a cell phone or PDA in order to use the system. After the software is installed, drivers can easily notify other drivers and be notified about police speed traps. On newer and more sophisticated cell phones and PDAs, the driver can even be shown a map of the exact point of the speed trap.

Tenereillo says that since Trapster’s launch in April, there have been a flood of subscribers and some capacity problems as a result. He has been surprised that a lot of his subscribers are actually “soccer moms” who make a lot of short trips throughout the day.

By May, Trapster had gained so much attention that it was integrated with Dash Navigation Inc., a dash-mounted GPS system that is connected to the Internet using Wi-Fi technology in addition to satellite-based systems.

While the concept of Trapster is not new, the technology is a new development in driver-to-driver communication while out on the road. Police have also upped their technology over the years in order to legally set up speed traps. In some jurisdictions, police are limited by law as to the type of speed traps they may use and the amount of revenue they may collect with speed traps.

With limitations of law already preventing police from writing too many tickets during speed trap operations, you might think that police really don’t like the idea of Trapster. However, Tenereillo says that they do like the idea that Trapster is getting speeders to slow down. For officers in jurisdictions that are more interested in safety than revenue, having the speeders slow down is a great thing. Additionally, officers can slip in their own speed trap notifications in the Trapster system in an attempt to get traffic slowed down to a safer speed with relatively no effort.

So for now, with no tickets or arrests for drivers and a safer road for everyone, Trapster seems to be a win-win situation for both drivers and police departments that are interested in traffic safety.