UAE Claims Blackberry Outage Resulted In Fewer Car Accidents

from the correlation-vs.-causation dept

As a bunch of folks have submitted in one form or another, police in the United Arab Emirates are claiming that a significant dropoff in traffic accidents in the past week or so is due to the giant Blackberry outage that made many of the devices useless for quite some time. Of course, as the report notes, there’s nothing beyond correlation to back this up, and there may be an alternative explanation as well:

At the end of last month, popular UAE footballer Theyab Awana was killed in a high speed crash near Abu Dhabi, and it was claimed that he was sending a message on his BlackBerry when he hit a lorry.

The football star’s father, Awana Ahmad Al Mosabi, made an emotional plea to people not to use smartphones while driving, and a Facebook campaign against the use of BlackBerry Messenger while driving has grown in popularity.

That would suggest a pretty major third variable which likely distorts the impact of the Blackberry outage.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “UAE Claims Blackberry Outage Resulted In Fewer Car Accidents”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Variable 1) The people
Variable 2) The Blackberry outage
Variable 3) The death of the football player and the massive campaign to stop people from texting while driving (Technically two variables, but one was caused by the other).

That third variable has the bonus of being vary public and possibly caused people to drive safer, texting or not.

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Of course! People always listen to emotional pleas from famous people. They totally change their nature.

Come on. This is silly. Most people believe they are immortal, or at least don’t care enough about their mortality to believe that THEY will be the one who gets in the accident just because they were “sending a quick text.” I guarantee that the outage is the variable that reduced accidents. Because of the 80% who use their equipment responsibly? No, because of the 15% who don’t. (5% just should never be behind the wheel to begin with.)

Really, admit that SOME people are going to use their equipment irresposibly, and they are generally the ones to cause accidents. I’ve seen people drive up on medians, turn the wrong way on a one-way street, and just generally drive like idiots, and 9 times out of 10 they have a cell phone in their hand. This is not a referendum to ban cell phones while driving, or anything as stupid and counter-productive as that. It IS stating that it only takes ONE person to cause MULTIPLE accidents, and that pretending that an emotional appeal for people to “drive better” is the actual cause of fewer accidents is insulting my intelligence.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Texters gonna text.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m not saying that texting isn’t a problem. You’d have to be a moron to think that texting is OK.

I am saying that it’s more likely that a celebrity dying due to texting while driving might be a bigger variable then one phone provider going down. Remember, the iPhones didn’t go out, the Android phones didn’t go out, the flip phones didn’t go out, just Blackberry. How big does Blackberry have to be to cause a noticeable drop in accidents?

It’s possible that the Blackberry outage caused the problem, but if it did, they must drive worse then an Ohio driver in Pittsburgh.

Lord Binky says:

I don’t know about the UAE, but I know in a few other middle eastern countries that texting while driving is less of a problem than stupid activities such as hanging out the door and pretending to skate on the ground. That and the fact that in some places you have a wait a specific period of time before helping so that you give the person a chance to die O_o

Dirt_is_Fun (profile) says:


Mike, so either people quit using their Blackberries because they couldn’t or they were shocked into awareness by the death of a famous footballer. Either way, there is a STRONG correlation here. This was a multi-day event that affected every BlackBerry user equally. It is clear that the outage and the reduced accident rate occur at the same time. Incorporate data about weather, holidays, comparisons with previous years and, it’s my opinion, this will become a compelling example of the dangers of distracted (by smartphone) driving.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am sure both were contributing factors, I think the point that the UAE officials were trying to make was that driving while messaging is hazardous to you and all those on the road around you.

There have been numerous studies across the globe that demonstrate that texting while driving is as bad as or more dangerous than drunk driving.

This is a serious and global problem, several teens have died in my town this year from texting while driving. These people are turning their vehicles into ramming machines simply because they aren’t paying attention to the road. We need a national campaign with a catchy slogan akin to “Click it or Ticket”. Maybe “Text and Drive, Wrecks and Die” or “Don’t text me bro”, I don’t know maybe someone else can do better.

Richard (profile) says:

Correlation and causation.

Correlation !=causation is too glib and easy – and sometimes (as here ) may be wrong.

In reality if x is correlated with y then there are four possibilities

1. x causes y.

2. y causes x.

3. both x and y are caused by something else (z).

4. The correlation happened by chance.

Now it is possible to eliminate 4 by examining the data statistically (or at least to put a bound on the chance of it happening that way).
Assuming that that has been done and produces an adequately low chance of a random occurrence we are left with 1-3.
In the present case we know that the Blackberry outage was not caused by the fall in road accidents in UAE (eliminating 2). It is also pretty much incredible that a third factor caused both of these ( the death of the sports star didn’t cause the Blackberry outage!)

Therefore in this case (assuming the details of the statistics eliminating 4 are sound) we can be pretty confident that correlation DOES imply causation.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...