NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - If you own a GPS or a smartphone, the latest technology to helpyou avoid getting expensive traffic tickets is literally a downloadaway.
GPS tracking is designed to make driving more safe, but it alsohas the power to alert you to areas that could cost you if youbreak a traffic law. There are a few similar systems, but the oneWAVY.com tested is called Phantom Alert.com.
Retired firefighter and Newport News resident Dennis Rickettsoffered to take the system through its paces. Like thousands ofother drivers, Ricketts doesn't drive anywhere without his GPS. ButDennis said that's not because he is afraid of getting lost.
Dennis' GPS is armed with something others are not. The GPStracking system, called Phantom Alert, that he downloaded more thana year ago, started working immediately.
"Alert, red light camera ahead," the GPS said.
Getting caught by a red light camera can mean a traffic citationalong with a fine of $50 that shows up in your mailbox.
"I know where they are, a lot of other people may not. It's likea tool in a toolbox for your car. If you choose to use it, you'llbe a better driver," said Ricketts.
Thirty seconds down the road, the Phantom Alert system spoke outagain.
"Alert, school zone ahead. Reduce speed," said the computerizedGPS voice.
It's not just school zones or red light cameras though, thesystem also alerts drivers to railroad crossings, speed traps andD.U.I. checkpoints, to name a few. With a paid subscription and aquick download, the system is ready to use.
The hope for many users is that the system will prevent traffictickets, but the reality is that the system is only as reliable asits users. That's because drivers who use the system, fuel thesystem by calling in or e-mailing hot spots, other users are thenalerted through instant downloads.
WAVY.com wanted to find out how police feel about thetechnology, especially since those red light cameras can mean bigrevenue for the city. Virginia Beach Police Officer Jimmy Barnessaid Phantom Alert and other similar systems actually enhance whatthey are trying to do.
"We think it's great," he said. "Technology works on both sides.We're using technology to enforce the laws, technology also cantell you where we're enforcing the law."
But the alerts for DUI checkpoints could help driverspotentially avoid a checkpoint, after being notified of when andwhere it's happening.
"Am I going to go through a DUI checkpoint? If it changes driverbehavior, maybe I shouldn't drive tonight or maybe I should get adesignated driver, we're all for that," said Barnes.
Not everyone feels that way.
Mike Goodove, a Norfolk attorney and president of the SouthsideChapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, lost his brother to adrunk driver. Goodove agreed Phantom Alert does some good things,but he says DUI checkpoint alerts aren't one of them.
"It's personal responsibility. I don't think we can support atool that encourages people to drink, drive and avoid detection,"Goodove said.
Even though many local cities publicize information about DUIcheckpoints, Goodove says the problem is that users can get instantnotification.
"When you're behind the wheel and you get information that canhelp you avoid detection, which translates to you're a danger tothe public, that can't be a good thing," said Goodove.
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