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iPhone feature to disable texting will lower texting and driving car accidents

June 20, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

The new iOS 11 “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode will disable texting and suspend other alert functions

Disable texting iPhone Do Not Disturb While Driving
The new Do Not Disturb While Driving safety feature allows iPhone users to disable texting and receiving push notifications from news and from apps.

Apple’s upcoming iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad will have a feature that will disable texting and turn off other distractions while driving.

This is important. It will save lives. It will prevent thousands of car accidents caused by distracted driving. To those who will criticize this move by Apple and say it infringes on their privacy, it shows just how little they understand about what I see as an auto accident attorney every day. Far too many of the terrible car crashes and life-changing injuries that I see are being caused by texting and driving today. It’s been proven to be as dangerous as drunk driving. It’s also something that’s completely preventable.

The new operating system from Apple will help to stop many of these preventable car crashes.

For years, I’ve been calling the sharp spike in car crashes caused by texting and distracted driving a safety epidemic.

Yet many drivers are still paying more mind to their phones than to the traffic around them when they drive.

It doesn’t take very long to see another driver with his eyes on a cellphone instead of on the road. In the few seconds he’s not looking at the road, he is essentially driving with his eyes closed.

Now comes iOS 11’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode, which will be released this fall.

New iOS 11 Do Not Disturb While Driving mode

With this new safety feature, when you’re driving you will be able to disable texting and receiving push notifications from news and from apps. The phone will only have a blank screen for the duration of your drive.

Apple’s announcement is one of those “it’s about time” moments. I know many people will be unhappy by this feature. But I’ve long compared our attitudes today as a society to the attitudes that people had toward drinking and driving in the 1970s. Attitudes and our willingness to tolerate these behaviors changed as people became more aware of the costs and steep toll in human lives that drinking and driving imposed on society.

I see it today with my focus groups and juries. People know texting and driving is dangerous. They get incensed when they see others doing it. But these same people who get so angry if they see another driver looking at the cellphone instead of the road when driving will then go out and do it themselves.

Society needs to catch up to just how dangerous texting and driving is, and to how many car accidents are caused by distracted driving.

Ironically, this is one more example of a company that is trying to effect positive social change when lawmakers and politicians fail to act. I’ve long rallied for lawmakers to increase the penalties for distracted driving, as well as better enforcement.

So far, Apple is the only smartphone manufacturer to move forward with such a bold move.

But it’s also the right move.

Apple’s easy method to disable texting through DNDWD mode

The way DNDWD mode will work is simple. The user will need to select it on as part of the iPhone’s settings. When the mode is engaged, a sensor will be able to detect whenever the iPhone is connected to a car via Bluetooth or a charging cable, or whether the car is moving.

Notifications such as text messages or news updates will be muted, so your screen remains dark for the ride.

If someone tries to text you while DNDWD mode is turned on, she will automatically receive two texts back. The first will say, “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.” The second will reply, “If this is urgent, reply ‘urgent’ to send a notification through with your original message,” allowing for a text to come through if there’s an emergency situation.

In addition, the iPhone screen will be locked so that drivers are prevented from using other apps while driving. Meanwhile, passengers will be able to select the “I’m Not Driving” button on the lock screen in order to disable DNDWD.

Then, when you’re at your destination, you can access what you missed (if anything) while behind the wheel — all the while knowing that you also missed accidents that were easily preventable.

Looking at the number of fatalities from distracted driving, an option to disable texting is long overdue

How important is the launch of DNDWD?

Fatalities from distracted driving-related auto accidents in Michigan increased approximately 50% from 2015 to 2016 — from 28 to 42 fatalities, according to Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center data. Significantly, distracted driving-related fatalities increased approximately 200% from 2014 to 2016 – from 14 to 42 fatalities.

Texting while driving increases a driver’s chances of being in a serious car accident or truck accident 23 fold, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The University of Utah reported that cellphone use was associated with a four-fold increase in the likelihood of getting into an accident — the same risk as driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit.

‘You don’t need to be responding to these kind of messages’

This is a giant leap in the evolution of mobile technology as far as safety goes. Craig Federigh, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said it best at the June 5, 2017, Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, where DNDWD was introduced:

“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. … We think this is going to be a real important step in safety in the car.”

So do I, and so do my fellow attorneys at Michigan Auto Law. This iOS feature is a much-needed step in the right direction, one that our own auto accident attorneys encourage other cellphone and tablet manufacturers to follow.

I’ve heard Apple described as a company that creates things consumers never knew they wanted, but, almost immediately upon the product launch, realize they can’t live without.

With the Do Not Disturb While Driving mode, there’s a much better opportunity for Apple mobile users to be able to live, period.

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