Dubai and Abu Dhabi had far fewer traffic accidents during RIM’s three-day BlackBerry outage, highlighting smartphones’ often-deadly role in distracted driving.
Police say crashes declined by 20 percent in Dubai and 40 percent in Abu Dhabi during the outage, a departure from typically fatal accidents every other day in the latter city and every three minutes in the former.
“Absolutely nothing has happened in the past week in terms of killings on the road and we’re really glad about that,” said Brigadier General Hussein Al Harethi of Abu Dhabi’s police department. “People are slowly starting to realize the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working.”
Texting and driving is officially prohibited in the UAE, but drivers often ignore this warning and barrel down relatively unpoliced roadways at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.
The UAE is not the only country facing fatalities from behind-the-wheel smartphone use.
In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board is proposing a ban on mobile phone use by truck drivers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explained, “Texting or talking on the phone while driving can turn deadly in a matter of seconds, particularly when a big rig or a bus is involved.”
LaHood is considering a nation-wide ban on handheld phone use while driving, citing numerous accidents caused by too much digital multitasking.
“Protector” and “Distracted Driving Alarm” provide similar services and even alert parents if their teenagers are texting and driving.
Mobile phones now outnumber people in the U.S., suggesting it will be difficult to keep those increasingly dependent on their mobile devices from taking them along on the highway.
But if people everywhere take Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s lesson to heart, they may find themselves on safer roadways.