The Trapster mobile service is a free, road-awareness app for smartphones and navigation systems that allows users to warn and be warned about accidents, speed cameras and waiting police cars. In essence, it’s the crowd-sourced equivalent of flashing your lights at another driver to warn them of something on the road ahead.
In addition to dangerous junctions, slow moving traffic and other everyday highway annoyances, Trapster warns users about known police speed traps and even notorious hiding spots used by traffic cops to catch speeding motorists unawares.
So, is it OK to be one step ahead of the game with the Trapster mobile service?
I can probably stop writing now, right?
Using Trapster is not wrong, and nor should you feel bad for doing so. Do the police feel bad for putting speed cameras up on the side of the roads? Of course not, they make quite a lot of money from speed cameras after all – it’s one permanent cop, with a speed gun, who never needs to be paid. This perma-cop also catches other drivers speeding 24 hours a day and fines them for doing so.
Using a service like Trapster goes some way toward levelling the playing field, and its use might even result in drivers with a better awareness of their surroundings and hazards. Before we dive any further into this minefield of a subject though, it must be said that speed kills and the best way to be a safer driver is to kill your speed.
It’s important to consider why speed cameras and hidden police with speed guns are considered necessary by law enforcement. Clearly, the driving public speeds too much, and cameras are a more economically viable way of deterring speed and warming brake pads, right?
If the police really believe this train of thought – that speed cameras and traps are designed to slow you down – then surely they’d be embracing services that encourage this behaviour, like Trapster. When you approach a known trap, be it a permanent camera or a waiting traffic officer, Trapster will attempt to alert you.
If speed cameras are designed to have this effect anyway, then Trapster is an aid to the system. Where I grew up (the UK), each week the police would print the location and operating times of their mobile traffic cameras and hidden cops-with-guns in the local paper. I fail to see how Trapster is any different to this, albeit with more 21st century charm.
Like many crowd-sourced services, Trapster is free. It’s free to download, free to use and anyone can play their part by submitting reports and voting on other people’s reports. There is not a great deal of money to be made here, as the guys behind Trapster haven’t done much to monetize the service. This is a good thing.
This is in stark contrast to a company like Road Angel, which sells products designed to alert drivers of speed limit changes, cameras and mobile traps. They also have a subscription model, and claim that the subscription is paramount to keeping your database of warnings up to date.
While there’s nothing wrong with using a Road Angel either, there’s a lot of money involved. The company is making money by selling a device designed to make you a safer driver. Trapster is at least free and cooperative – everyone benefits from your report, your vote and nobody’s tied-in to a subscription model.
Become A Better Driver?
One thing that Trapster has allowed for in addition to warning of speed traps and police stops are the many other types of alerts and icons that show up on the map.
The service also includes alerts for the following:
- School zone – permanent, static warnings
- Children at play – spot a game of football in the street? Help avoid an accident by reporting it (expires after 1 hour)
- Road hazard – strong winds brought down a few branches? Let other Trapster users know (expires after 1 hour)
- Car accident – expires after 2 hours.
- Dangerous curve – permanent warnings of hazardous bends
- Brush fire – expires 6 hours after last report
This is just a selection of the different alerts and others include warnings for floods, road kill or closed roads. Imagine if all cars were notifying drivers of similar dangers on the road ahead, though I’m sure that’s coming to a future near you soon.
This is why I believe using driving aids like the Trapster mobile service to warn you of upcoming hazards isn’t a bad thing. I’m especially impressed with Trapster as its free, relies on crowd-sourcing and is available on a large range of devices. Just don’t go submitting reports and fiddling with your smartphone or GPS unit while driving – that’s just common sense.
What do you think of Trapster? Do you use it? Do you think it’s right or wrong that motorists can be warned of speed traps? Have your say in the comments, below this article.