Do Blackberry Users Put Others At Risk?

from the uh-oh dept

We’ve mocked plenty of stories in the past that claim that certain technologies are “addicting.” Usually, there’s no actual evidence, other than a practitioner who wants the so-called “addicts” to pay them lots of money to help deal with the so-called addiction. Also, there’s usually no sign that it’s an actual addiction or that the addiction actually is harmful to anyone. It just uses the “addict” label to get attention. However, perhaps we underestimated the “harm” of users who can’t put down their Blackberry devices. John points us to a recent study that suggests some Blackberry users are so hooked on their device that they become oblivious to real world situations around them, perhaps putting themselves and others in danger. This includes Blackberry users who check messages while walking, driving or biking. Of course, the study is hardly scientific. It just collected some anecdotes from a small number of Blackberry users — but does bring up an important point about people who are unable to relax enough to turn their devices off. If they’re so connected all the time, they can occasionally ignore important events happening right around them. Perhaps that new Blackberry users’ spa should focus not just on massaging people’s thumbs, but also help them relax enough to recognize they can turn the device off every once in a while.

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Comments on “Do Blackberry Users Put Others At Risk?”

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Brian says:


Tisk, tisk on me – I drive and e-mail on my Blackberry everyday. I have not crashed (yet…please don’t let this jinx me), and I know I shouldn’t do it…but I do. Of course, I used to text on my old cell phone and drive too. And fumble for the CD I wanted to play on the stereo. Actually, I think I’ve come closer to crashing my car because of all these colledge girls that walk around in my town with nothing but looks like underwear on! 😉 (great, now someone will yell at me for being an unatentiave driver AND a pervert)

The big picture says:

Re: Re: Absolutely!

while I have to agree people who let them selves get distracted from the job at hand are a danger to us all.
But really you think your somehow better, if it was up to me that guy would get a hefty fine and I’d throw your license in the bin for the attitude, if you actually did any more than talk about it I’d throw away the key — I think they call that attempted murder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Absolutely!

Ya I think I’m better. Running someone off the road is hardly attempted murder, but hopefully they’d be so hurt they couldn’t drive again. I’m not the one attempting to murder hundreds of people every day on my drive to work with my ignorance. Sacrifice the one for the many.
You obviously have no experience with some of these people who write text messages while driving at 100km/h.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Absolutely!

If I really believe what?
I didn’t say that the police will agree with my actions. You honestly think I’d be booked on attempted murder charges if I said, “I’m gonna run this idiot off the road,” to a police officer? Get a grip. With the state of law enforcement today I could only wish they cared that much.

The big picture says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Absolutely!

I’m sure if told a cop of your intentions he would not take you seriously and ignore you, and go do something more useful.

However if you if you made an official statement of intent, the local authorities would be obliged to act and depending on the prosecutor you could be charged with any number of offenses up to and including conspiracy to murder, not attempted as all you have done is talk about it. you would have to actually run some guy off the road intentionally before you could be charged with attempted murder.

If your still unsure about the rites of other people and the dangers of running people off the road.
You should seek legal advise and maybe some psychiatric help wouldn’t go amiss.

I hope this helped.

european says:

Re: Absolutely!

in all european countires, thanks to some very wise legislation, it is illegal to drive and use cells at the same time-one must purchase the hands free system if one wishes to communicate while driving-the stats for the first few years of this legislation prove what usa lawmakers and consumers dont want to admit-many less fatalities and accidents of all sorts-i was shocked, arriving in the usa in 2005, seeing everyone behind the wheel, texting and talking…is a conversation, or sms really worth potentially killing or maiming someone? thank goodness at least one part of the world has come to their senses!

Ron (profile) says:

Turn if off and pay attention

Matt, my phone has a a call bloc that lets m block numbers. Also has caller id. I get a call from someone I don’t want to talk to, I press the ignore button. I’ve told many of my friends that I am under no obligation to answer the phone. If the call is important, leave a message.
Brian, whatever you’re texting cannot be that important that you have to do it while driving. If you’re driving pay attention to that. If you need to send a message or make a phone call, pull off the road and do that. The reason you have not gotten into any accidents may be because everyone else is looking out for your a** as you weave down the road (was yours one of the two cars I had to avoid this morning as they crosssed over the centerline?). As for the college chicks, parking and watching is better.

xyphur says:

Use voicemail. That’s what it’s there for, to take your calls and buffer them until you’re able to pay attention again. People who use their cell phones / PDAs / Blackberrys while they drive annoy me to no end, because it’s plainly obvious they are inhibited from taking in everything that’s going on around them. I’ve witnessed a number of near-accidents due to the lack of awareness caused by having a cell phone permanently lodged in your ear canal, so nobody can try and convince me that it doesn’t affect their ability to drive safely.

I use my voicemail. I check it often, but only when I’m able to do so without interfering with the safe operation of the vehicle I’m piloting. I’m more interested in keeping my car, myself, and the drivers around me unscathed than hearing about how cool the movie you saw last night was. If it’s important, I’ll call you back. If you can’t deal with that – tough.

billy says:

cell phone drivers

.. annoy me also.
I have been almost hit several times.
I acknowledge that there have been times I have seen people dive flawlessly even while on a cell phone.
My brother is one of them.
I have let him know that I disagree with him talking while driving, but until I see him do something stupid while on the phone, I refuse to hassle him more.
What annoys me though is the people who are all over the road.
There was some stupid b***h a week ago driving a freakin Hummer (H2, not the average SUV version thats out now) and she really was all over the place.
She got honked at a couple of times, and looked like she was yelling on the phone.
While driving in the fast lane she practically went off the road (fast lane side). By almost off, she had her right set of tires touching the grooves on the side of the road that make noise. About another 5 inches and she’d be off roading in the middle of the freeway at 85mph (speed limit 70 but in rush hour on I-75 here in MI between Detroit and Flint it gets pretty hectic on the way home).
I was shocked she didn’t die, but if she did, as cold hearted as this sounds, I think it would have been for the best.
At least she’d only be taking herself out and not a whole family that she is likely to hit if she continues like that.

I love making the gesture to hang up the phone to people who cannot drive straight. Usually get flicked off, which is when they have no hands on the wheel, because they can’t even put the phone down to do that.

Seriously, wtf.
I would love a law here that would give cell phone drivers tickets.
Sorry if you are one of the few who can drive and talk just fine.

Chii says:

I think it’s personally easy to disconnect from the wireless prison. Why? Because there’s a lot more that needs to be done in person to be wasting it punching into a phone.

If you’re in a situation where you can’t stop driving while you’re on your device, your time management skills are poor.

If your reasons are business/professional related, then you are a social dependent… meaning you’re unable to feel useful and fulfilled unless you’re engaged into social interaction. That’s chronic in my opinion… learn to have some separation, maybe have people leave some messages for later…

misanthropic humanist says:

techno addiction

I can’t turn off my phone.

Step 1: We admit we are powerless over X and that our life has become unmanageable.

Well, seriously, the definition of “addiction” has been abused so much that the term has become neutered. As the linked post asks, “Are we addicted to calling people addicts?”. I think we are. But only because I take a strict scientific view on the matter and see a great danger in blurring a precise definition.

Interestingly there has been a revision from DSM IV to DSM V in that four stages are more usefully recognised.

i) “Use” – no negative consequences even with sustained indulgence.

ii) “Abuse” negative short-term consequences related to behaviour or feelings in the context of procurement and withdrawal.

iii) “Dependence” serious negative consequences related procurement and withdrawal with life-pattern re-structuring and serious behavioural changes.

iv) “Addiction” serious short and long term negative behavioural effects related to procurement, withdrawal and tolerance. Physical and psychological symptoms during withdrawal. Potentialy lifelong patterns of abuse.

There’s almost nothing that doesn’t fit (i) so we could, unhelpfully, say that any activity is potentially dysfunctional. Most of us become abusers of technology or show technology dependency (according to those definitions). But “addiction” is definitely not an appropriate word. Nobody will die or suffer lasting trauma if you take their mobile phone away.

If you are putting your own health and the safety and comfort of others at risk by *any* action, you are engaging in abuse.

Addictive-like behaviours are, at root, dysfunctions of apetite or other homeostatic procurement-reward cycles. This should be clearly distinguished from its converse, bullying/abuse *through* technological proxy by another actor (for example boss/spouse).

Both kinds of abuse may apply to an inability to stop a relationship (with a technological device).

If you cant switch the fucker off, ask yourself “why?” Is it because you fear something? A missed opportunity? A fear of losing contact with a social group? Or is it becuase you are seeking something? Some kind of payoff or reward that you were exposed to early in your use of a technology and you are seeking to recreate.

The pathology is not in the behaviour itself, but in what the motive is behind the behaviour. For example, if you *absolutely needed* your mobile device to obtain food (and there was no other way to eat) then by definition a constant use of the device could not be seen as a pathology, since eating is a basic need.

So, an “addiction” to social contact may be seen as less severe, since that is quite high on the ladder of human needs, than say an addiction to downloading music files or pornography.

Technology itself cannot be blamed for behaviour. It is by itself passive in the behaviour and by its nature enabling, it reduces the effort needed for the procurement-reward cycle, and humans are smart when they take the path of least resistance. It’s the seeking of excessive rewards (beyond basic needs) that becomes a problem.

In the second case of abuse by technological proxy ( a better and more familiar phrase is “control-freak” ), one agent seeks to control another by controlling their supply of/access to a necessary resource. Pimps who hook prostitutes on drugs and “cheap-labor capitalists” who increase workloads for the same reward fall equally into this category.

The “victim” of this second type of dependency is active in their role. In almost all cases (except severe heroin addiction and the total withdrawal of food/water) they have the “choice” to say no and extricate themselves from the control mechanism. This is a function of the will, and the wisdom “It is better to die fighting on your feet than to live on your knees” applies well. Healthy “willpower”, maintainance of appropriate boundaries and the ability to “say no” is something I think is declining in our societies. In Babylon we all suck helplessly at the whores breast.

So, we are not addicts. We become dependents. The only question is whether or not you are comfortable being dependent on something that is not within your control.

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

The biggest issue with a Blackberry...

… is that you cannot easily suspend mail forwarding to the phone from the BB itself without turning the radio (and hence calls) off. If you get a lot of email, you constantly have to clean out or mark as read your mail or pretty soon you’ll have 500 emails in your inbox. That means that for at least 15-20 minutes a day, usually while you are doing something else (lunch, subway, etc), you are trying to clean out the damn inbox… And it’s often at these times that people will call you ‘addicted’.

Personally, I hate people who talk on the phone while driving, and texting is even worse. Pull over for christ’s sake.

I do use my BB for voice-prompted navigation, ‘tho, but it just sits in the car’s ashtray.


Phlatus the Elder says:

Addiction? Balderdash!

Addiction is chemical. Obsession is behavioral. Problem with being obsessed is, you have to own it to admit it. Much easier to admit if you’re addicted – it’s that mean ol’ chemical and not your personal failing.

(Misanthropist, is the APA DSM-V definition in a chemical or behavioral context?)

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Addiction? Balderdash!

is the APA DSM-V definition in a chemical or behavioral context?

Behavioural afaik. I think the psychobabble used by that side of the mental health profession applies only to behaviour/personality. But it’s interesting what you say about physiological addiction vs “obsession”.

I guess that’s what I mean by “choice” in my post.

Does the body rule the mind? Or does the mind rule the body? I dunno 🙂 I’m no expert in Descartes philosophy of Cartesian dualism, but if you want an empirical study to laugh at try:

(Laugh because it’s fatally flawed. Because one of the foundational tenets of the question is that it can’t be decided by the mind. 🙂

Brian says:

Thank you!

I know I should not drive and use a Blackberry; but I do it. Thanks for your comments. I am a changed man, I will do my best to never do this again. I’m sorry if I enraged anyone, you all are completely right, and my 2 kids and wife would agree that even if I only killed myself – it’s still not acceptable behavior. I will try and be less connected to my Blackberry and more connected to the world.

Jeff says:

Re: Re:

Blackberries are tools – like everything else that is “good” or “bad” or “evil”.

It’s not phones that crash cars, its people.

What difference does it make if it’s the phone, the radio, the kids, the spilled coffee, the sun in one’s eyes, etc.

They’re tools, *up to a point. Opiates are a tool used by physicians to relieve pain, and it stops being a tool when the patient gets addicted to it, moves to heroin and starts robbing people to get a shot. I have no point, really, other than to say we should shoot addicts in their silly heads and feed them to the starving people of Africa.

Neum says:


I will concede that while propelling yourself in a 2,500+ pound hunk of metal you definitely should not be pounding out emails on your ‘berry. Biking is another situation where things happen fast enough to be a danger, but how dangerous can it be to walk and email at the same time. Nothing happens so quickly when you’re walking that you can’t look up and avoid whatever danger may threaten you. I suppose you could wander into a busy intersection, but you would have to be completely turned off to miss the sounds of an intersection, not to mention the ensuing noise of people honking at you. Also if I’m not mistaken, pedestrians retain the right of way on all roadways with the exception of Multi-lane highways. Just my two cents…

The infamous Joe says:

Wakka wakka wakka

I read somewhere (though I can’t seem to find it– not that I tired too hard) that even talking using a handsfree device is dangerous, as it’s not the fact that you only have one usable hand that is dangerous, but the fact that you’re not paying attention.

Also, Mr. Bennett, I don’t know how you haven’t been told this already, but the trick with crazy ex’s is to set their personal ringer to ‘Silent’. No muss, no fuss. (I can’t help you when you get a million voicemails, sadly.)

Carrier Employee says:

Blackberry addict cuz they force me to be

I work for a carrier and find myself connected too much. I am expected to reply to emails and text and phone calls everyday by my sales reps. I have to even switch my blackberry profile to “phone only” at night in order to sleep without interruption from corporate email or others texting me. What happened to the day when your day off meant you were really off and able to feel like it??? I wish I knew of some law here in Florida that kept salary employees from working on their day off or working more than 50hrs.

misanthropic humanist says:

it's called labour law

I am expected to reply to emails and text and phone calls everyday by my sales reps.

You may be “expected” to, but you don’t have to do that. You have a choice.

I have to even switch my blackberry profile to “phone only” at night in order to sleep without interruption from corporate email or others texting me

Sleep deprivation is widely regarded as a form of torture in the civilised world.

What happened to the day when your day off meant you were really off and able to feel like it??? I wish I knew of some law here in Florida that kept salary employees from working on their day off or working more than 50hrs.

It’s called labour (sic) law, or employment law. You have that in the United States too. In Europe the mandatory maximum is 48 hours. Any time (part of an hour) you must answer a phone, pager or electronic device is counted as an hour for those purposes. There is a maximum number of consecutive hours you can work for.

You also have other rights such as the right to solidarity (to form a union with other workers to mutually negotiate more favourable terms of employment aka “collective bargaining”), to paid leave, to minimum standards of health and safety, protection against unjustified dismissal (regardless of any contract you have signed to the contrary – you can’t sign away your rights).

If any member of your company lies to you about those rights they may be guilty of a criminal offence (ie you don’t call your lawyer – you call the police and file a *criminal* charge). Breach of labour law can close down a company in Europe and I’m sure the same is true in the USA.

Read what I wrote a few posts back and realise that you are a willing victim of abuse.

Seriously though, if you find you are being held hostage by a mobile device and think your health is suffering just use a microwave or a bucket of water – oopsy daisy, accidents happen. Nobody can ever prove sabotage if you do it carefully on your own property, though twice is probably pushing it. Better than that though – why not tell your company you are stressed by that and refuse to do what is outside the province of your rights, then if they fire you use Americas famous ambulance chasing philosophy and claim for work related injury? That’s how things work over there isn’t it?

Yoda says:

Prohibited in many states

Using a cellphone while driving is already illegal in many states in the US (except with built-in hands free system). Here in New York it has been the law for a year or more, but everyone ignores it, including the police.

I think the law has merit, however. Based on my own experience, it seems if the brain centers used in being vigilant while driving are pre-empted or blocked by having a conversation.

Garrett says:


I have seen just as many people texting or using other mobile devices like Treo’s or Q’s in the same manner that some people use their Blackberry. I’m not sure its accurate to limit this behavior to Blacbkerry users. If you are in a situation where you might get hurt (like walking or driving) because you aren’t paying attention to the situations around you then don’t answer your Blackberry until you are able to do so safely. You really aren’t any use to the person trying to get in touch with you if you are wrapped around a tree.

The bottom line is that new technology is cool and some people want to be seen using it. But using a Blackberry when you are out at the bar at 11pm at night to answer work email just makes you pathetic. There are a very select few professions where round the clock availability part of your job description.

Give it a shot, try turning off your phone when you are driving home from work and see what happens. Worst case scenario someone tries to call you and they get your voicemail.

My one biggest piss off factor is people that use their phones or mobile devices while in line some where. When the lady at Subway asks you what type of bread you want for your sub, don’t hold up your finger and ask her to wait….cuz my ass in gonna get right infront of you.

Stand Back...It's more of the Intellectual Boohaha says:

Blackberry Surprize

I was in Starbucks getting a frap dap double doo do with chocolate spinkles & xtra froth (skim plz) & the guy beside the guy with the BB was askin if it was waterproof…& this guy was bla bla blaaing & then text text texting & surf surf surfiung & laughing & chuckling all the while, amusing himself…so the other guy annoyed at all this going on, took it & dropped it in to the creamer….yet another dependence addicted, abused over its use…My diagnosis..he was cured & no, not even the slightest bit splash proof.

Anonymous Coward says:

Put it down

What drives me crazy with u crackberry addicts is the “turn off electronic devices on the airplane” issue. What is so important that you can’t follow this simple direction – I get better cooperation from my four year old. I was sitting next to one of these addicts recently, and he argued with the flight attendant that his Blackberry is not an electronic device! So I guess they not only make you an addict, they make you stupid too!

Sweet_Mika (profile) says:


i think it does in a way i have a blackberry my self idefinately tune people out when it comes to my phone.i like to ignore people so i justne then out..ibe on twitter and facebook and all of that i download alot of free things.. but when i turn my phone off i know that i am bound to get messages from my mother and text messages from my friends i had te phone for so lon that i know that im goin to gwt all types of messages. im not driving yet so, i am learnin all these rules now. but a dummy would know nt to text while driving!!!!!!

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