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Distracted Driving

BlackBerry Outage Linked to Massive Drop in Traffic Crashes

2:14 PM EDT on October 17, 2011

According to data released last week by NYPD, distracted drivers were the leading cause of city traffic crashes in August. Of 16,784 incidents, 1,877 were attributed to "driver inattention/distraction," while an additional 10 were linked specifically to phones or other electronic devices.

While NYPD reports make it impossible to decipher exactly how many city drivers are texting or talking before a crash -- we'll go out on a limb and assume it was more than 10 -- the recent BlackBerry service outage in Europe, Africa and the Middle East served to illustrate the extent of the problem in two cities. The National reports:

A dramatic fall in traffic accidents this week has been directly linked to the three-day disruption in BlackBerry services.

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 this week fell 40 per cent and there were no fatal accidents.

Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of Dubai Police, and Brig Gen Hussein Al Harethi, the director of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department, linked the drop in accidents to the disruption of BlackBerry services between Tuesday and Thursday.

Gen Tamim said police found "a significant drop in accidents by young drivers and men on those three days". He said young people were the largest user group of the Messenger service.

Last week's developments have reportedly acted as a wake-up call to drivers and authorities in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where police are issuing fines to distracted drivers and confiscating their vehicles.

Unfortunately, given the opacity of NYPD data and the inattentiveness of top brass to epidemic traffic violence, it's unlikely that a similar result from an accidental experiment such as this would even register with New York motorists, much less with those charged with maintaining a safe environment on city streets.

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