Watching RIM over the last year has been like watching a five car pile up happening in slow motion.

RIM, however, might just have its seatbelt on: In a symbolically huge move, the company announced today that it has finally shipped BlackBerry 10 phones to carriers for testing.

“I’m very pleased to confirm that we have passed a critical milestone in the development of our brand new mobile computing platform, BlackBerry 10,” RIM CEO Thorstein Heins said in a statement. “We made this commitment during our recent results conference call and we have delivered.”

For any other company, such an announcement would be a pretty minor one, but for RIM, it’s vital to the company’s entire future. If the BlackBerry 10 boat sinks, so, too, does RIM.

RIM’s investors have celebrated the news by pushing its stock up 10 percent to $8.75.

And can you blame them? RIM’s investors — whatever’s left of them — haven’t had much good news of late. BlackBerry 10 has already been delayed twice, and while RIM has only given a vague “first quarter” release date for the operating system, today’s announcement shows that it is at least somewhat on target.