Think that Only Cops Can Spot a Drunk Driver? Think Again


It is not uncommon for law enforcement to post announcements on digital billboards with messages like “Call 911 to Report Drunk Drivers” on freeways throughout California. In fact, most people don’t need a billboard to tell them that they can call 911 to report drivers who might be drunk. I’ve known several people who have called the police when they’ve seen people swerving on the highway. The two questions that police dispatch ask from those people: “Where are you?” and “What is the license plate number of the other car?” Sure, they can give the location, but do those people stick around to see where the suspect goes before officers arrive? Probably not. And many people can’t answer the second question because sometimes it can be difficult to accurately read a license plate number when, for example, it’s dark outside, the other car is 100 plus feet away, the other car is swerving all over the road, all of the above, etc.

Frank Vahid, professor of computer science at the University of California, Riverside, hopes to help curb the problem.

With programmers Timothy Cherney and Daniel de Haas, Vahid has created the “DuiCam” app. The iPhone and Android app allows users to attach their phones to a dashboard mount and record the road in front of them with the purpose of recording possible drunk drivers. The app deletes footage every 30 minutes to prevent over usage of phone memory. However, if the user believes that someone on the road in front of them is driving drunk, they can pull over, review the footage, zoom in, and report the license plate number of the suspected drunk driver. Footage and screenshots can be saved and emailed to law enforcement.

While the app is free for iPhone and Android users, the user would need a dashboard mount for their phone. Recording without one is a violation of another California law; using a handheld communication device while driving.

Cherney and de Haas are currently in the process of developing upgrades for the app that include automatic license plate recognition.

Just because you don’t see any cops while driving drunk does not mean that you’ve gotten away with it. Remember that anyone can report suspected drunk drivers and, now, it is possible for those people to have their own dash-cams ready to record suspected drunk driving.

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