Did BlackBerry Outage Save Lives?

The BlackBerry network snag that interrupted services last week for millions of customers around the world may have yielded an enormous benefit: saving lives by reducing the number of traffic accidents caused by careless drivers tethered to their wireless devices.

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), traffic accidents declined 20 percent from average rates on the days BlackBerry users couldnt access the messaging service, reported The National, an English-language publication based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. In Abu Dhabi, where the city suffers a fatal accident every two days, the number of accidents plummeted 40 percent, according to the article.

Officials didnt think the reduction in traffic accidents was a coincidence. “Accidents were reduced by 40 per cent and the fact that BlackBerry services were down definitely contributed to that,” Brig Gen Hussein Al Harethi, the director of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department, told The National.

BlackBerrys owner, Canada-based Research in Motion, suffered a crisis last week after a core switch designed to protect its infrastructure failed, exasperating many customers who were unable to use email and messaging services for three days. The network failure caused outages and delays throughout the world, including Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chili, Europe, India, the Middle East and North America. RIM restored service last Thursday.

Aiming to show its appreciation to customers for having to endure the service interruption, RIM on Monday announced that a selection of premium applications worth about $100 will be offered for free to BlackBerry customers. The company planned to make the apps available in the coming weeks at BlackBerry App World and extend the offer through the end of the year.

We truly appreciate and value our relationship with our customers,” RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in a statement Monday. Weve worked hard to earn their trust over the past 12 years, and were committed to providing the high standard of reliability they expect, today and in the future.”

Whether RIMs offer will be adequate to sooth customers frustrations and anger remains to be seen.

RIMs challenges are bigger picture,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky told The New York Times.  It would mainly be of interest to some people who see value in apps.”

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