WATCH | Would you snitch on texting drivers to earn a quick $5?
A new app is using citizen policing -- and amateur photography -- to help stop texting and driving.
Called Text to Ticket, it pays regular people to take video of drivers in the act and then passes that footage to authorities for ticket-issuing. Each approved video coming from its users in the areas of California where it's so far launched is worth $5. And, of course, the app makes users agree to never video driver infractions while they themselves are behind the wheel -- only while on foot or sitting in a passenger seat.
It's like a neighborhood watch ... You wouldn't want someone breaking into your neighbor's house and you just sitting there like, 'Eh. Whatever.
App co-founder Jesse Day told Circa that his team doesn't see the service as a place for headhunters to cash in on texting drivers, but instead a way for users to help stop texting and driving in their communities. The $5 payout is just added incentive.
Even though surveys show that most people believe texting and driving aren't good, that doesn't mean most feel it's OK to be spied on by fellow citizens. But, Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU, assured in an interview with Circa that, as weird as it may feel, strangers taking your picture in public is legal.
"It is a bit uncomfortable to have this vision of a society where everybody is running around videotaping every infraction," he conceded. "At the same time, people have always turned in other people for crimes."
Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 46 states and the District of Columbia.
Stanley went on to say that Text to Ticket's encouragement for citizens to report each other could bring problems like racist or sexist targeting. But, ultimately, the videos submitted in the app, he clarified, serve as only potential evidence for infractions, with final say on ticketing going to the authorities on the receiving end.
"Like any piece of evidence, it can be interrogated," he explained. "There could be court arguments about authenticity or chain of custody."
Distracted driver-related deaths are still occurring at a scary-high rate across the country. So with other tech-related solutions failing to yield results, the team behind Text to Ticket believes most people should agree its solution is worth a try.
"About 11 kids die every day from distracted driving," Day said. "A lot are very much for what we’re doing."
Of course, even if you are "for" what Text to Ticket is doing, getting busted by the app, and its vigilante user base, probably won't feel any better.