This undated handout photo shows creators of the Driving While Black app in Portland, Ore., from left, software developer James Pritchett, lawyers Mariann Hyland and Melvin Oden-Orr. / AP Photo/Driving While Black

The app allows drivers to send an alert to friends and family that they have been pulled over

The makers of a “Driving While Black” app have urged potential users to not to search for their phones while talking to the police.

As the US reels from the aftermath of black deaths at the hands of white police officers, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, the developers advise users to avoid making moves that could make officials think they are reaching for a gun.

Melvin Oden-Orr, one of two lawyers creating the app, stressed: "Do not reach for your phone when you are talking to police".

The term ”driving while black,“ is common term among African-Americans when flagging up police discrimination. A Justice Department report released last year, based on a survey of those stopped by police in 2011, suggests black people are more likely than whites to be pulled over and have their cars searched. Moreover, African-Americans are much more likely to believe a traffic stop is not legitimate.

The app, which is due for release later this month, will provide tips to motorists of all races, said Oden-Orr, and outline what civil rights you have during a stop.

It will also allow drivers to send an alert to friends and family that they have been pulled over by police, and record the interaction. 

Attorney Mariann Hyland was inspired to create "Driving While Black" after learning of an app for drivers suspected of drunken driving. She approached Oden-Orr in April, and the two have been working on the app since summer with software developer James Pritchett.


The app is being developed as protesters around the world, including those at a “die-in” in Westfield shopping centre, London, yesterday, work to keep attention on instances of deadly encounters with police.

Meanwhile, "Five-O," an app released this summer already allows people rate their interactions with law enforcement. And last month, American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in four states unveiled ”Mobile Justice,“ an app that allows users to take video of police encounters and upload the videos online.

"It's obviously in the forefront of everybody's mind; the police know they are being recorded and people in public know they can record," said Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy for the ACLU Missouri affiliate. "I think the benefit of this app (Mobile Justice) specifically is it goes straight to the ACLU and we can review it for any due-process violations."