BlackBerry Outage Linked to Massive Drop in Traffic Crashes

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.

  • The judiciary is also part of the problem.  Cyclists and pedestrians who have been struck by motorists and sued have long sought to review the cell phone records of the drivers who hit them, to determine if they were in mid-call or -text when the crash occurred.  Unfortunately, New York judges generally will not allow review of the records, on grounds of privacy and relevance.  This is so even when the victims ask only for a record of cell phone use, the the names and numbers of the persons called or calling redacted.  The only exception is when the victim can testify that they saw the driver using the device just prior to the crash, or there is other “hard” evidence suggesting distraction. 

    Hopefully, data such as these can be used to convince the judiciary that crash victims should be presumptively allowed access to electronic communication records of the responsible drivers.

  • Anonymous

    Shouldn’t insurance companies and the police want this information to establish responsibility?

  • J. Mork

    The police don’t want the information public because it’s their responsibility to do something about it.

  • Mister Bad Example

    At one point, the auto insurance companies were telling customers that they wouldn’t cover them for bodily injuries in an accident if they weren’t buckled up. That was shot down by legislative action, but it seems to me a ticket for texting or cell usage should lead to loss of insurance at the next renewal period–I’m given to understand that most insurers drop customers who’ve had a DUI or similar ticket.

  • Anonymous

    blackberry next blackout solution:

  • Sounds like they need to confiscate Blackberries etc (as well as the vehicles)


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