(FoxBusiness) Next time you’re driving down the highway at breakneck speed, your cell phone, not your radar detector, may be the device that prevents you from getting a ticket.
Taking a page from social networking sites and adding a cell phone to the mix, Trapster, a new Internet-based service, will inform you in real time of upcoming speed traps.
The service, which is free, relies on the community to report police traps, whether it’s a police car with a laser gun, a red light camera, or an officer hiding out of a motorist’s view.
Users can post the traps either online at Trapster.com, via a downloadable application on their cell phone or through a 1-800 number. If your phone is GPS enabled, it will automatically tell you via voice alert if you are approaching a police trap. If you don’t have a GPS-enabled phone you will get text message alerts of traps in your area.
For participants, reporting police sightings is as easy as either calling a 1-800 number or using a downloadable application on your cell phone. With the application, a user would
press pound-1 on a cell phone for live police, pound-2 for a red light camera, pound-3 for a speed camera and pound-4 for a police hiding in an unusual spot. The service also lets users rate the reliability of the information, similar to how eBay users rate the credibility of sellers on its auction Web site.
“Trapster is Facebook meets eBay meets a radar detector,” said Pete Tenereillo, founder and president of Trapster. “People are entering data in Russia to Singapore. It works anywhere and not restricted to a location.” Tenereillo, who had been working on the idea since 2003, but toyed with other alert concepts said police traps were the one idea that resonated with people whether it’s a truck driver, soccer mom or street racers. “It saves money and everybody’s got the problem,” he said.
But offering a service that attempts to circumvent law enforcement is sure to raise the ire of police officers across the country right? Not necessarily. Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organization, said that if the service results in people slowing down then he’s all for it.
“If someone slows down because of it, it’s accomplishing the same goal of trying to get people to obey the speed limit,’’ said Johnson. He noted that he’s not aware of any federal or state laws that would make a service like Trapster illegal. And while some towns may rely on the revenue from traffic tickets, Johnson said it’s far and few between and isn’t proper to begin with.
“The number of towns that do that is very small,” said Johnson. “It’s not the type of enforcement strategy that you want to impose on a police department or individual officer.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006 speeding was a contributing factor in 31% of all fatal crashes, with 13,543 lives lost in speeding related accidents.
With most community-driven Web sites, the amount of people participating is key in the success of the business. Since Trapster is free and addresses something that most people have had to contend with at some point in their life, Tenereillo said it’s been a huge success so far, even though he won’t comment on the specific amount of users.
“There’s a lot and it’s been growing. Our server was slammed last week,’’ said Tenereillo. What’s more Tenereillo, said 40% of the users who have signed up for accounts actually participate by providing information on police traps. According to Tenereillo, user generated Web sites like YouTube have a participant rate of less than 1%.
“People have a fundamental motivation for this,” he said. “It’s a real problem that strikes a cord with people. They want to contribute. There’s not much motivation to put a video on YouTube there’s motivation to enter a trap.”
In fact, Tenereillo said the service has even helped him get out of a couple of tickets.
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