Distracted driving accidents injure hundreds of thousands of people annually, claiming 3,477 lives in 2015 alone according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To say we’re in the midst of a crisis is an understatement. Laws can go only so far in encouraging responsible behind-the-wheel behavior, but new technology in the form of a safe driving mode for Apple smartphones may begin to ease the crisis — provided you make use of this tool.
Dubbed “Do Not Disturb While Driving,” the new feature is an integral part of phones running iOS11. When activated, it prevents owners from receiving messages and calls while driving. Further, it automatically notifies your contacts that you’re driving.
Do Not Disturb While Driving: How to Install and Use
Here’s how to get Apple’s new Do Not Disturb feature:
1. Determine your operating system. Unless your smartphone is already running iOS11, you’ll need to download the latest operating system. To check what version you’re running, go to Settings > General > About and scroll down to Version. Anything below iOS11 means you’ll need to make an update.
2. Update to iOS11. To make an update to iOS11, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Click “request a download.” Accept Apple’s terms of service, then the download will begin automatically. Connect your phone to a power source. The download may take at least an hour to complete as iOS11 is a major update (It adds such features as a new App Store, along with improvements to Siri, the camera and photos.) When the download finishes, you may need to restart your iPhone.
Now that your smartphone has iOS11, you’ll want to set up the driving feature:
1. Go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.
2. Tap the plus symbol (+) next to Do Not Disturb While Driving.
3. To control this feature, swipe from the bottom of your screen. A panel containing a car symbol appears. Click on the symbol. A drop-down menu states, “You will not receive Notifications while you are driving.” You can turn this on and off as you please.
iPhone Behavior While Driving
When the Do Not Disturb feature is active and you’re in a car, your iPhone stays dark and quiet. If someone messages you, they’ll receive automatic notification that they’re busy. If the message is extremely important, the sender may type “urgent” to ensure that you get the message. You’ll receive a notification for urgent messages, and that’s your cue to pull off the road, ready your own message and send a reply. You can also have Siri read the message.
Besides urgent messages, certain notifications will still get through. These include emergency alerts, alarms and timers.
The feature restricts incoming calls, but you can allow calls to come through from people on your Favorite list. Further, you can allow calls to come through from people who contact you twice in a row. Phones connected via Bluetooth will automatically accept calls, enabling you to converse by using buttons, microphones and speakers.
Customize Do Not Disturb While Driving
If you want to customize Do Not Disturb, you can. Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb. Here, you’ll find a panel of settings immediately beneath the Do Not Disturb menu, including:
1. Scheduled. Here, you can automatically schedule when your phone is quiet, such as during your sleep hours.
2. Silence. Determine whether you want calls silenced at all times (when locked or unlocked or just locked).
3. Phone. When operating in “Do Not Disturb,” you can allow calls from everyone, no one or from your favorites. You can also receive calls within the group you established.
4. Driving. How do you want to activate “Do Not Disturb?” Here you can have it activate automatically, when connected to your car’s Bluetooth system or do this manually. When operating in automatic mode, your iPhone looks for a number of signals, including GPS, WiFi connectivity and the phone’s accelerometer. Yes, the system may activate if you’re riding on a train — if it does, you’ll need to override the controls
5. AutoReply To. You control who receives an automatic message explaining that you’re not available. Choose between all contacts, favorites, recents or no one. Remember, if someone wants to get through, all they need to do is type “urgent” and you’ll receive notification.
Young Drivers and Parental Controls
Teen drivers are at a greater risk of having an accident than any other age group. As a parent, you may want to control how they access their iPhone while driving. Apple makes this possible by doing the following:
1. Obtain your child’s iPhone and go to Settings > General > Restrictions. If you haven’t used restrictions before, you’ll need to enter a new passcode. Remember this number to make subsequent changes.
2. Go to Allow Changes and activate the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature.
3. Choose “Don’t Allow Changes.”
Maps and More
Drivers who use their iPhone’s Maps feature to navigate can still do so. Your iPhone will still show lock-screen navigation help and supply turn-by-turn instructions.
As Apple takes the lead with iOS11, we expect Android, Windows and other smartphone operating systems to follow suit. Of course, technology is no substitute for practicing safe driving, but it certainly can be useful when the right tools are in place.