U.S. survey shows risky use of mobile e-mail devices

Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:14am EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A California train engineer who was sending and receiving text messages was blamed last month for causing one of the worst railroad crashes in U.S. history that killed 25 people.

Despite such risks, many Americans send and receive text messages on mobile e-mail devices in dangerous situations, according to a survey released on Tuesday that showed 77 percent have used such a device while driving a moving car.

Forty-one percent said they have used a mobile e-mail device such as a BlackBerry while skiing, on horseback or riding a bicycle, said the survey commissioned by Neverfail Inc, an Austin, Texas-based software company that provides protection for business data, operations and applications.

The engineer of a crowded commuter train was text-messaging from his cell phone seconds before his train skipped a red light and collided with a freight train near Los Angeles in September, killing 25 people, investigators found.

The Neverfail survey said the proportion of the corporate work force using company-supplied mobile devices will grow to nearly 40 percent by 2010 from just under one-quarter now.

In the economic crisis workers may feel squeezed and under pressure to use their mobile devices even more, said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research of Black Diamond, Washington, which conducted the survey for Neverfail.

"People are going to have to do more than they are doing now," he said. "As people get laid off, the responsibilities of the company don't go away, but the people to do the work do."

Also, 11 percent of respondents said they have used such a device during a romantic moment, and 79 percent said they have used one in the bathroom, it said.   Continued...