New Anti-DWI Technology
App Advertises it Helps Catch Drunk Drivers
Law Offices of Tim Powers
UC Riverside Computer science professor and students have created a free
app that makes it easy to record and report drunk drivers
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Nearly 30 Americans a day die in vehicle crashes
that involve drunk drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. That number is so appalling to Frank Vahid, a computer
science professor in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University
of California, Riverside, that he plans to spend much of the rest of his
academic career helping to eradicate the problem.
His first offering? A new, free Android and IPhone app called DuiCam that
lets drivers use their cell phones to easily record erratic drivers. It
has already been downloaded more than 1,000 times.
To use the app, all a driver needs is a dashboard or windshield mount.
The app lets the phone constantly record what’s happening in front
of the car, while deleting footage after 30 minutes so the phone’s
storage isn’t overwhelmed.
If app users see what looks like a drunk driver, they can—after safely
pulling over—easily replay the video and zoom in to look at the
license plate and other identifying marks on the offending car, to pass
on to the police. The app even makes it possible to email a snapshot or
the entire video to help investigators get the driver off the road.
“I have observed many drunk drivers and seen a hit and run involving
a drunk driver, and in every case we have the same situation….we
see it happen, call 911 to report it and the first question the police
have is, ‘What’s the license plate?’’ Vahid said.
“These things happen so quickly and license plates are quite small,
so it’s very hard to get it at the time. That’s why I was
thinking it would be helpful to have a device that’s always recording
what’s in front of the car.”
Vahid began thinking about this idea about five years ago.
“I asked myself, ‘What are the biggest problems facing this
country?’ To me, drunk driving is one of the biggest and most outrageous;
over 10,000 deaths a year in the U.S. caused by drunk driving and several
hundred thousands of injuries. If you think about it, that’s three
Sept. 11s every year, and it’s a pretty absurd situation because
Five years ago, the technology for such an app wasn’t widely available,
but now virtually every cell phone has a good quality camera, and many
people already have mounts for their dashboards or windshields, so they
can easily use the camera feature on their phone.
Vahid has spent more than a year researching drunk driving, He talked to
district attorneys, psychologists and police officers to identify products
could legally and safely help tackle the problem.
Now, Vahid and UCR computer science majors Timothy Cherney and Daniel de
Haas, the students who programmed the new apps, are developing more features
to DuiCam, such as automatic license plate recognition. Information on
their apps, including how to support future development, is available