Creator of Mr. Checkpoint claims his APP cuts down on drunk driving
25-year-old Sennett Devermont is preparing to greatly expand a social media service that will prove useful for many drivers. The service, named Mr. Checkpoint, developed as a mobile app, sends alerts to subscribed drivers about the places of police DUI checkpoints and speed traps via text message.
This app seems to give a choice to drunk drivers to avoid checkpoints but Devermont said that his app is actually created to reduce the rate of DUI, not to allow drivers to drive drunk after leaving a pub or a bar.
Currently, this free texting service is only offered in California. Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Diego County, Inland Empire and Kern County are included in the designated DUI service areas for Mr. Checkpoint in California. The service is expected to expand nationwide and includes launching a free downloadable app scheduled to be available within a month. This service also shares discounts from local sponsors’ messages which offer services like ride-share programs and designated drivers. Every week on its website, Mr. Checkpoint offers a DUI Tip of the Week.
According to the creator of the service, the app will alert the users of the service when they are in a 30-mile radius of DUI checkpoints and speed traps. The list of the locations and a map will be provided to them with the help of a text message.
Many people criticized Mr. Checkpoint and said that it facilitates impaired drivers rather than stopping them from driving drunk but Devermont insists that the main purpose of designing the app is to make people safe on the roads and it encourages people to be more responsible while driving. “I can use Mr. Checkpoint to reach 21 to 35-year-olds using social media to educate them not only about what to do if they get pulled over and knowing their rights, but also about the danger of drunk driving, the danger of texting and driving and all the other dangers of being irresponsible behind the wheel,” said Devermont.
Devermont told that in 2011 when he launched Mr. Checkpoint, he was charging a monthly fee for the service but when he came to know that this service is proving beneficial for people, he decided to offer it for free. He said, “People didn’t just want to get the information, but they were actually acting more responsible behind the wheel by getting the information. They started sending me texts and pictures with their designated driver or saying, ‘hey, thanks to that designated checkpoint I decided to get a hotel room”. He also said that this is really an educational tool.
On the website of Mr. Checkpoint, when any person signs up to receive notifications, he/she is required to type the pledge “I will never DUI”. After typing it, the service then sends the person a text message requesting to reply back identifying the area in which he/she would like DUI checkpoint alerts provided from a list of locations in his/her area. To receive the DUI checkpoint alerts, mobile phone users can also subscribe to the Mr. Checkpoint service by texting “NODUI” to the number 51515.
Most of the information given to the service users is already available on the website of local police departments said Devermont. He told that his main focus is on collecting the data and spreading in it in a way that it reaches people more effectively by their cell phones.
Currently, the number of active twitter followers of the service is more than 43,000 and since the launch of the service, it just recently sent out its one millionth text alert. Devermont said that the media platform is more targeted and powerful for spreading messages, so Mr. Checkpoint is more effective than other DUI campaigns. He also said , “I’m actually in the demographic that unfortunately is responsible for a lot of drunk driving and I know that this service is reaching them… because the numbers show it”.
In 2006 when he was 18 years old, his interest in checkpoints was aroused when he was taken into custody by police at a San Diego college party for underage drinking. Devermont told that he insisted he had not had a drink but the police officer told he had failed a field sobriety test. When his BAC was tested with a breathalyzer test, the machine registered zero. “They really humiliated me because I didn’t know my rights. From that point I really started finding out more about… rights with police,” said Devermont. He taped San Diego police doing a number of things that he observes as illegal on a video during a DUI checkpoint in which he was asked to take a sobriety test and passed in 2011. He is hopeful that Mr. Checkpoint will help attract more attention to these kinds of issues as well.
Executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Los Angeles, Pat Rillera said that she was not aware of the plan to expand Mr. Checkpoint nationwide. Rillera has doubts about Devermont’s real objective behind designing Mr. Checkpoint. She told that MADD is not in the favor of this service and Devermont’s claim that the main objective of the service is to stop drinking and driving is still doubtful. She said, “MADD supports law enforcement on the frontlines doing DUI checkpoint” because the organization participates in more than 200 checkpoints in California annually making more than 200,000 drivers aware of the dangers of drunk driving and giving them information about it. “We clearly see checkpoints as a way to deter drinking and driving. That’s what we support. If that is indeed what he’s doing that’s great, I hope that it is. But he needs to show us differently,” Rillera added.
Devermont is hoping to grab the attention of more advertisers to his social media site. He is quick to observe that the SMS texts can be sent to any cell phone with multiple links, phone numbers, pictures and even video. The platform for Mr. Checkpoint service is also set up so that messages can be specifically targeted for certain types of devices allowing sponsors to send different messages to either iPhone or Android users.