BlackBerry outage made roads safer

So say the police in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This is an accidental natural experiment demonstrating the truth of the Texas A&M texting study I reported last week.

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.

On average there is a traffic accident every three minutes in Dubai, while in Abu Dhabi there is a fatal accident every two days.

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.

The following comments from the chief of Dubai Police illustrate the sort of anti-DWD actions we need to be taking:

Gen Tamim likewise warned that Dubai Police will soon be using electronic evidence against drivers who cause accidents while using their smart devices.

“We have the capability to know who sent what when, and if an accident occurs while someone was messaging we will prove it and present the electronic evidence to the Public Prosecutor, and charge the driver with the costs of retrieving that evidence,” he said.

Dubai already has high cellphone fines — but the fines are not sufficient, especially in the Dubai area where many of the drivers would not be inconvenienced by a paltry $10,000 fine. Knowing that you could well go to prison due to electronic evidence should be a bigger deterrent than fines.

More on the neuroscience of DWD.