Apple's New 'Do Not Disturb' Feature Could Help Prevent Distracted Driving

by Julie Scagell
Image via Shutterstock

The new feature aims to help drivers pay attention to the road instead of their phones

Sixty two percent of parents admit to using their phones to check incoming calls or answering them while driving, but we don’t need that stat to know how easily distracted driving can happen. Even if we never pick up our phone behind the wheel, when pings for awaiting text messages or alerts pop up, it can be hard to resist peeking.

Apple is trying to combat the number of preoccupied drivers on the road with a new feature, aimed at limiting a driver’s ability to be distracted.

The tech giant announced on Monday a new iOS 11 feature called “Do Not Disturb While Driving” that will silence any notification coming into your phone. The feature will also send an automated reply to your “favorites” if a driver receives a message while driving. When a driver’s phone is connected to Bluetooth, the feature can also detect speed to determine if a person is driving, imitating the “Do Not Disturb” functionality.

Once the feature, available for free this fall, is set to “on,” the iPhone detects driving and the muting capabilities will set your screen to dark. The automated reply will then send a notification to anyone who texts you during your drive to say “I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going,” which takes the urge to reply immediately off your mind.

According to the CDC, more than eight people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver every single day in the United States. Distracted driving can include anything from answering your phone, texting, using navigation devices or eating. As any parent knows, dealing with kids in the backseat (handing over toys, food, etc.) can also pose a major distraction on the road.

But as reports, the number of distracted driving accidents may be much higher the CDC reports. That is, because a driver needs to admit to having been distracted or the distraction has to have been witnessed by an officer or someone who saw the crash happen. “I need that person to tell me outright that they were using their phone,” said Sgt. Michael Dietsch, a traffic investigations supervisor with the Tucson Police Department. “You can guess how often that happens.”

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi told USA Today, “It’s all about keeping your eyes on the road. When you are driving you don’t need to be responding to these kind of messages,” he says. “We think this is going to be a real important step in safety in the car.”

We’d love to say “just put your phone in the glove compartment or out of your line of sight” but let’s be honest; most of us just aren’t doing that. If this feature helps keep our roads a little safer and can potentially help save lives, we’re all for it.