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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that eight people are killed every day, and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes involving distracted driving. Though it is harder to get accurate statistics on how many of these crashes are specifically tied to the use of a cellphone, studies have shown that texting while driving is a major cause of distracted driving. It is estimated that around 660,000 people are on their cellphones or other electronic devices while driving on any given day.

Despite the increase in safety features and technology in cars, road fatalities per vehicle mile traveled are on the rise, and this concerning statistic is almost certainly impacted by the number of technological distractions drawing drivers’ eyes from the road.


Most states have laws restricting the use of cellphones by new drivers, but only 14 states entirely ban the use of handheld devices while driving. Many local governments and brands have launched public service announcements and marketing campaigns aimed at fighting distracted driving, but the continued rise in crashes and fatalities is convincing many companies that a technical solution may be necessary to handle this issue. To this effect, Apple is introducing a bold new iPhone feature intended to decrease the potential distraction of a cellphone while driving.


Called “Do Not Disturb While Driving,” this feature will be part of Apple’s forthcoming iOS 11 operating system (expected to launch this fall). It is a variation on the classic “Do Not Disturb” phone setting, often used to mute notifications while the user is asleep or in a meeting, for example. iPhone users will be prompted to enable “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode the first time that the phone senses they are in a car.

Once enabled, whenever the phone is connected to a car via Bluetooth or a cable, the phone will automatically withhold notifications for distracting things like text messages. This means that your iPhone will remain dark even when you receive texts, to keep from pulling your eyes off the road. The phone can be set to respond to incoming messages with an automatic message that you’re driving and aren’t able to respond right now. There is an option to allow selected favorite contacts to pass through the block; while this may seem counterintuitive to the blocking concept, Apple hopes that the peace of mind for a parent knowing that they will still see an emergency message from their child, for example, will encourage users who would otherwise be resistant to using the new mode to give it a chance.

Once in “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode, the screen will be locked to prevent drivers from accessing other apps while driving. Apple Maps will be accessible, though drivers will not be able to input new destinations, and there may be limited access to other non-Apple navigation apps. Passengers will be prompted to indicate that they are riding, not driving, and will be able to disable the feature.


“Do Not Disturb While Driving” comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s voluntary guidelines released in November calling for mobile manufacturers to create a “driver mode” with simplified interfaces that limit the temptation of distraction while driving. Other independent groups are also working on programs to fight distracted driving, and car manufacturers have continued to offer integrated hands-free technology options like Apple CarPlay to allow drivers to use apps more safely while driving. Manufacturers have even proposed adding technology to cars that would block incoming transmissions. Other researchers are dedicated to finding ways to minimize the amount of time and attention it takes to use a phone, in order to therefore decrease the distraction factor. Even simple changes like fonts that are clearer to read or setting up phones so that it requires fewer taps to make a call can help keep drivers’ attention on the road where it belongs.


Apple’s efforts are a major step in the fight against distracted driving and the tragic accidents it causes, though additional research is needed to entirely eliminate the problem. Though a distraction-free driving experience would be the ultimate goal, it is clear that screens are here to stay, whether they are handheld or built into the car itself. It’s up to auto manufacturers and tech companies like Apple to innovate and develop ways to minimize the distracting influence that mobile devices have on drivers.

If you suspect you have been injured by a distracted driver or in a car accident with someone texting and driving in Rockville, contact our office. We have personal injury attorneys with experience recovering compensation for our clients who have been injured by distracted drivers.


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