The Upside of That Blackberry Outage: Fewer Car Crashes
In the wake of BlackBerry's large-scale service outage last week, Research in Motion Ltd., the company that makes the handheld devices, has promised angry users free apps to try and prevent massive defection to Apple's iPhone. But while the days-long interruption was bad for RIM's bottom line, it was great for a lot of people, specifically drivers in the Middle East: According to police in the United Arab Emirates, traffic accidents dropped drastically while BlackBerry service was out—especially among young people, who authorities say are most likely to use BlackBerry Messenger while behind the wheel.
Reckless driving has long been a concern in U.A.E., and for good reason. On a normal day in Dubai, there is a car accident every three minutes, while Abu Dhabi suffers a road fatality every two days. When BlackBerry service died, those numbers fell drastically. State-owned U.A.E. paper The National reports that accidents in Dubai dropped by 20 percent, while crashes in Abu Dhabi dropped by a full 40 percent. What's more, Abu Dhabi had not a single fatality.
Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, of course. But the U.A.E. police themselves believe BlackBerry's dead service saved lives. "The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working," said police Brigadier General Hussein Al Harethi.
It should go without saying that we're fans of gadgets and the tech world at GOOD, and statistics like the ones included here are no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to products like smartphones. But that doesn't mean we can't also see the problems accompanying our electronic bells and whistles. If these numbers are to be believed, they're a strong argument for banning texting while driving in all 50 states instead of just the handful that already have that restriction. This also makes one wonder if Siri, Apple's new voice-controlled iPhone system, will revolutionize driving safety by allowing people to text and call totally hands-free. And if people can't be trusted to stop using their phones stupidly while on the world's roads, perhaps, like open alcohol bottles, phones should be banned entirely from the driver's seat. It's not ideal, but neither is people dying so other people can text that they're running late.