UAE police claim Blackberry outage made driving safer

'The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working'

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Make of this what you will: Police in the United Arab Emirates contend that last week's extended BlackBerry service outage significantly reduced traffic accidents there.

(8 piles of paper replaced by iPads)

From a story in The National, based in Abu Dhabi:

In Dubai, traffic accidents fell 20 per cent from average rates on the days BlackBerry users were unable to use its messaging service. In Abu Dhabi, the number of accidents (last) week fell 40 per cent and there were no fatal accidents.

Brig. Gen. (Hussein Al) Al Harethi said: "Accidents were reduced by 40 per cent and the fact that BlackBerry services were down definitely contributed to that. ... People are slowly starting to realize the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working."

If the purported cause and effect here is actual cause and effect, then perhaps instead of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion offering "we're sorry" gifts to inconvenienced customers, those customers - at least those in the UAE - should be sending thank-you notes to RIM.

Seriously, while it's certainly conceivable that the lengthy outage helped keep driver eyes on the road, there are other possibilities. Writes Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos:  

At the end of last month, popular UAE footballer Theyab Awana was killed in a high speed crash near Abu Dhabi, and it was claimed that he was sending a message on his BlackBerry when he hit a lorry.

The football star's father, Awana Ahmad Al Mosabi, made an emotional plea to people not to use smartphones while driving, and a Facebook campaign against the use of BlackBerry Messenger while driving has grown in popularity.

Texting and driving is against the law in the UAE and The National story mentions statistics about fines that are levied that would indicate more vigorous enforcement may be playing a role, too.

And a final note: While paling in comparison to any possible effect on traffic safety, we did learn several years ago that an extended disruption of BlackBerry service can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships. See: BlackBerry owes this guy a girlfriend.

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