App of the Week: Avoid Speed Traps, Red-Light Cameras with Trapster

App: Trapster Platforms: iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Web site: Trapster Cost: Free

The red-light cameras are back on again. After much voting, debating and suing, running a red light with a camera will cost you...again. But, one way to help you protect yourself from the cameras and from speed traps in general is knowing where they are, which is the aim of the popular app Trapster.

Trapster began as an app designed to warn drivers of potential speed traps, like modern technology's answer to the CB radio, alerting drivers to the presence of "smokey" before they got a ticket. Over the years, it has evolved into a pretty diverse software application that goes well beyond just keeping you out of a speed trap.

At the heart of Trapster is a user-based reporting system providing updates on current speed traps, red-light cameras and other potential trouble spots. Some of these are recently reported and others are known "hot spots," where you are likely to find a speed trap. Each location is ranked by confidence level ranging from low to "law enforcement," meaning it has been verified by the authorities.

What makes Trapster more than just a way to avoid tickets is the fact that the 22 categories of alerts also includes traffic accidents, flooded roads, children at play, road closures and a number of other traffic hazards all the way down to road kill. All of this additional information, not to mention a real-time, one-touch traffic map, makes Trapster an extremely valuable tool for any driver.

The app has push notifications tied to the GPS on your phone to alert you to impending problems. You can even route your trip using Google mapping technology through Trapster and it will provide you advance warning of what is along your route. If you don't want to leave the app open, you can have it run in the background and alert you when necessary.

As if that weren't enough, there is an entire section of settings that can be turned on to alert drivers of gas stations, restaurants and other nearby attractions.

Additional features like My Trips, which can be used to route an entire trip, can be unlocked by simply creating a free user account, which gives users the ability to report their own hazards, which is what keeps the entire app running in the first place.

We've used quite a few very solid apps built for driving, but Trapster may be the most comprehensive when it comes to getting around a city with traffic, red-light cameras and speed traps. Like a radar detector in your phone, it could also save you some cash this summer.

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