BlackBerry Outage Made Roads Safer for Everybody

Flickr/CC BY 3.0

Don't Text and Drive!
For years I've been saying that to make cities greener, we need to encourage more people to walk, bike, and take mass transit. There are many things to do to achieve that goal, and one of them is making the road safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Wide sidewalks, traffic calming measures, physically separated bike lanes, etc.. All that stuff helps, but we also need to stop drivers from doing stupid things like texting while driving. Case in point: The recent multi-day BlackBerry texting system outage has been linked to a significant reduction in accidents in some of the affected areas.

Flickr/CC BY 3.0

It makes intuitive sense that removing one potential distraction for drivers would drive down accidents, but unfortunately, it can be hard to find statistics about it. One paper that looked into the recent BB outage was The National from the United Arab Emirates:

A dramatic fall in traffic accidents this week has been directly linked to the three-day disruption in BlackBerry services. [...]

Brig Gen Al Harethi said: "Accidents were reduced by 40 per cent and the fact that BlackBerry services were down definitely contributed to that."

"Absolutely nothing has happened in the past week in terms of killings on the road and we're really glad about that," Brig Gen Al Harethi said. "People are slowly starting to realise the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working." (source)

Of course, the sample size is not huge, but considering that there is usually a traffic accident every three minutes in Dubai and a fatal accident every two days in Abu Dhabi, this seems significant.

Anything that can be done to make roads safer and keep drivers' eyes on the road will help encourage greener ways to get around. Maybe we need phones that deactivate texting automatically if they detect that you are sitting in the driver's seat of a car that isn't parked or something like that... What do you think?

Via Streetsblog

See also: Walk to School Day in New York City (Video)

Tags: Traffic | Transportation

Best of TreeHugger