For three days, police in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were scratching their heads in confusion, perplexed by the fact that they were receiving far fewer calls to traffic accidents than usual.
Then on Thursday the accident rate returned to normal. It was then that the police made the connection. The improvement in driving could, they believed, be attributed to the BlackBerry service outage which affected millions of phone users around the world, including those in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Research In Motion’s BlackBerry phones are popular in the Middle East, so the loss of service meant that instead of surfing the Internet, sending messages and tapping out emails, many drivers were actually doing what they should be doing while on the road – driving.
According to the South Atlantic News Agency, there’s a traffic accident in Dubai every three minutes, while in Abu Dhabi someone dies on the roads every two days. During the BlackBerry outage, however, accidents on the roads of Dubai dropped by 20 percent, while in neighboring Abu Dhabi an astonishing 40 percent fewer accidents were reported, with no fatalities at all taking place.
Dubai police said that last week saw “a significant drop in accidents by young drivers and men on those three days,” adding that young people were the biggest users of the popular BlackBerry Messenger service.
Al Harethi of Abu Dhabi police appeared to be more than happy about RIM’s service failure. “Absolutely nothing has happened in the past week in terms of killings on the road and we’re really glad about that,” he said. “People are slowly starting to realize the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working.”
This news comes on the back of a recent survey which found that two in five UK motorists check their social media accounts while driving.
Almost 50 per cent of drivers make sure that they can see their mobile phone when driving, so that they don’t miss out on their Twitter messages, being poked, tagged or messaged.
Facebook is the leading temptation, with 27 per cent of all motorists admitting to logging on to the social media website whilst they’re on the move. That culminates in 21 per cent of drivers posting statuses at red lights.
It’s not just social life which distracts motorists when they’re on the road. The survey, carried out by Confused.com, also found that 15 per cent of motorists use heavy traffic to catch up on work calls and emails.
More than one fifth of UK drivers are incapable of driving for more than 15 minutes without checking their phone for calls, texts and notifications while a further 45 per cent admit to becoming frustrated when they receive calls or texts on the road.
The survey is particularly damning as 75 per cent of motorists know it is illegal to use a hand-held phone whilst the engine is switched on with 60 per cent continuing to answer their phone if it rings while they are driving.