Apple’s most important announcement at its annual developers conference is a feature that will help drivers keep their eyes on the road and save lives. The Do Not Disturb While Driving feature will launch as part of iOS 11 later this year. While it won’t get as much fanfare as the new products and flashy software features unveiled at the WWDC 2017 keynote, it will have a greater much greater impact.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving killed 3,477 Americans in 2015 alone. Almost 400,000 people were injured in accidents caused by distracted driving the same year. The NHTSA conts phone use, adjusting radio channels and other hazards in these stats, but it cites texting and talking while driving as two of the top distractions.
We’ve seen third-parties such as app developers, companies and developers launch campaigns to reduce distracted driving, but this is the first time Apple’s built a solution to discourage distracted driving directly into iOS.
So how does Do Not Disturb While Driving Work? According to Apple, iOS 11 will be able to detect when iPhone users are driving or moving at high speeds. This is done in a number of ways, such as detecting when iPhones are connected to cars via Bluetooth
Apple won’t force the new Do Not Disturb While Driving on users. Instead, it will bring up a prompt. Passengers can simply dismiss the prompt and let them know that they’re not driving. After enabling Do Not Disturb While Driving, the mode will activate automatically on every car trip.
Once enabled, the display will simply be blank while driving. Even if you’ve sworn off texting while driving, an iPhone screen simply illuminating with alerts can be distracting, especially when driving at night.
iOS 11 will automatically respond to messages, letting contacts know that their messages will be delivered at your next stop. While Apple didn’t get into details about the auto responder, we hope the message can be customized.
Turning on Do Not Disturb While Driving will not put you completely in the dark. If a loved one or coworker absolutely has to get your attention, they can simply reply “urgent” to force their messages through. That means that you’ll know there’s something important going on when your phone beeps while driving and that it’s not just a Twitter alert or sports update.
Despite years of campaigns, texting while driving is a still a serious problem. Warnings in graphic commercials like the ones above and below simply aren’t enough and Apple’s new safety feature is a much needed step in the right direction.