New app targets African American drivers

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COLUMBIA - A new smartphone application targeted towards African American drivers is set to release this month called "Driving While Black."

The app offers tips and tools drivers can use during traffic stops with police. Two lawyers from Oregon created the app. They chose the name to reflect the Justice Departments findings that black and Hispanic motorists are more likely to get pulled over than white motorists.

Despite its eye-grabbing name, the app offers advice that can be used by motorists of all races.

The app's website says, "The purpose of this app is to give black people, people of color, and others who may be targeted for traffic stops, helpful information and tools to improve traffic stop experiences, safety, accountability and justice."

According to the app's website these tips and tools include;

• Sections to learn about your legal rights, traffic stop best practices and how to be safe
• Instantly and easily alert family when stopped
• Tips on recording your traffic stop
• Tips for Parents
• An opportunity to "test drive" your knowledge
• Ability to record and submit complaints or commendations on law enforcement
• Help identifying legal professionals in your area
• News, information and other resources

Columbia resident Kentrell Minton works closely with the community through his work as the chairperson of the Almeta Crayton Foundation. He doesn't think this app is necessary.

"Even though I am in the black community, I think that app doesn't pertain to me," Minton said. "I think that the app can be beneficial, but at the same time I think it is a little dangerous on the opposite side, who has time to reach for their phone to upload those apps when that situation is happening."

Minton said he thinks the app founders are using recent events to their benefit.

"I've been in Columbia over 11 years and I have not been pulled over once," Minton said. "When we say I think it's a black and white thing I don't think that's true."

He said he doesn't think an app like this is necessary and all people need to do, is show each other respect.

"There's a level of respect that you have to give the officer as well as the officer has to give to you," Minton said. "If you want to be safe, pull over in a safe place where it's lit up, more people are around that can see what's going on, always defend yourself that way opposed to trying to reaching for a phone and startle them."

The app's website says that traffic stops can be a high stress situation for the driver and police officers. It also says that the app will provide resources to improve traffic stops for everyone.