Public Service Announcement: How your iPhone can help prevent distracted driving

September 29, 2017

When it comes to smart phones, Lancaster’s technology lawyers Matt Landis and Brandon Harter rarely agree on anything. Matt’s an Apple fanboy, while for some reason Brandon uses an Android phone.

In this post and in Brandon’s counterpart, we managed to find some common ground: we can’t stand distracted driving. These posts will outline how features on an iPhone or an Android phone can reduce distractions and make the road a little bit safer for everyone.

We are constantly interrupted from the notification tones or vibrations from our mobile phones, and on the road, that’s an obvious problem. On my commute, I witness distracted driving nearly every day. As our own Charlee Sweigart astutely observed in a lunchroom conversation on the issue: “Nobody looks down that much and smiles.”

With the release of iOS 11 last week, Apple announced a feature to help reduce distracted driving: Do Not Disturb While Driving. Basically, text and other notifications are limited while driving to reduce distractions. Calls may come through depending on your setup and settings – for example, if you’re connected to the vehicle’s Bluetooth system, the call will come through. For a full explanation of the feature’s impact on various notifications, you can learn more on Apple’s support website or by clicking “Learn More…” in the Do Not Disturb menu on the iPhone.

Here’s a short video I made to show you how to turn on the feature on your iPhone:

In order to enable the feature, you need to be running iOS 11.0 or greater – to check whether you need to update, tap on the Settings app, then General, then Software Update.

Do Not Disturb While Driving settings are located in the Settings app, then under the “Do Not Disturb” menu.

There are three options for activating the feature: manually (default is off), when your phone is connected to your vehicle’s Bluetooth system, or based on detected motion. Since my car has Bluetooth, I chose that option. If you’re choosing manual activation, you can customize Control Center to include a button to quickly activate the feature.

You can also select whether an automatic reply message is sent, and if so, what group of people receive auto-replies. These settings include No One, Recents, Favorites, or All Contacts. I have this set only to Favorites.

Finally, you can customize the automatic reply message. The default message is: “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.” I modified this message to include the following additional sentence: “If you need to reach me immediately, please call me or send an additional message stating “urgent”.” since it may not be readily apparent to someone how to reach you in the event of an emergency.

Please consider enabling this feature on your iPhone to help reduce distracted driving and feel free to share with family, friends or others who might benefit from this feature. If you’ve got an Android phone, check out my colleague Brandon Harter’s post on how to enable a similar feature on your phone.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs. How’d Matt make that fancy video? Another new feature in iOS 11 allows screen recording.