Smartphone app designed to alert drivers approaching a speed trap

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KENOSHA COUNTY -- A new smartphone app is designed to alert drivers when they are approaching a speed trap -- but is using this app legal?

19-year veteran Kenosha County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Peck knows the roads he patrols well. Peck recently took FOX6 News along on patrols of County Highway E in the Town of Somers.

"It's a 35-mile-per-hour zone. It's one of the major roads heading off the interstate, towards the city of Kenosha," Peck said.

Peck says drivers along this flat stretch of road seem to forget to slow down.

During patrols, at first, drivers were behaving, and Peck even let some speeders by. However, it wasn't too long before someone flew by and was stopped by Peck.

The 19-year-old driver was traveling 18 over the limit, and received a citation from Peck.

It was tough not to feel bad for the driver -- many have been in her situation. What if this driver had a warning -- a head's up to the approaching speed trap?

Trapster is a free app available on any smartphone that puts a spot on a map to tip off drivers as to what's ahead.

Stafanie Frederick spoke with FOX6 News via Skype from the developers' San Diego based office. 

"It's definitely useful and helping users. It is just like as if you were flashing your headlights at someone if you saw something up ahead," Frederick said.

The app has been downloaded more than 17 million times and counting. It is adding to the list of things users can warn fellow drivers about.

"We have road hazards such as flooded roads, road kill, electric vehicle charging stations, red light cameras, speed cameras," Frederick said.

On the road in Kenosha County, Peck got a look at Trapster for the first time. Peck said the app's main focus -- in tipping off drivers as to where he is located is actually not a bad idea.

"If it causes people to slow down and think 'there is a cop sitting up the road,' and causes them to reduce their speeds and drive more safely, it is a great thing," Peck said.

However, Peck said he is not a fan of Trapster's sound technology.

"It is just one more thing that distracts a driver from paying attention to the road and doing what they're supposed to be doing," Peck said.

In fact, Peck said it may be distracting enough to be illegal. Looking at the app while behind the wheel could fall under Wisconsin's Inattentive Driving Law that comes with its own hefty fine.

"I believe it is $175.40. It's a four-point violation," Peck said.

Frederick said it is up to those in the car to follow the rules.

"As long as you have it mounted, it gives you audio alerts. You can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, and you will be notified as you're driving. It's just like a navigation device in your car," Frederick said.

Other problems FOX6 News discovered with Trapster is that many of the alerts were old, and several times, the app delivered alerts regarding known law enforcement areas, yet no cops were located.

"As a user, what you can do is vote them down. This will kind of let others that are approaching them know these are older enforcement points. After three weeks, they start to expire. If users aren't voting them up constantly, they actually start expiring from the map," Frederick said.

Many drivers told FOX6 News they think the app is a great idea.

"I would probably get the mounting device for my car and put it up. That would help me," one driver said.

After a $200 ticket, it is hard to believe a driver wouldn't be willing to give the app a try, but Peck says app or no app, the only sure way to avoid a ticket is to slow down!

CLICK HERE for additional information or to download the Trapster app.