Reprinted from The Huffington Post, June 9, 2017
Contrary to what has recently been reported in the media, Apple’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” (DNDWD) feature, which will be available in the fall of 2017 as part of the iOS 11 operating system update, will not drastically reduce iPhone distracted driving crashes. Despite all the hype surrounding DNDWD, it falls short of providing real protection from distracted drivers because it is only an optional feature, dependent on the driver’s willingness to accept it and, even if accepted, is easily bypassed. What is really unfortunate is that Apple presently has the technology to make DNDWD much more effective and elected not to do so. As a result, crashes, injuries and deaths involving drivers who are using iPhones will continue to occur.
Crashes caused by distracted driving are increasing.
Highway fatalities increased in 2015 and 2016, reversing a near decade long trend of decreasing fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics for 2015 revealed that fatalities attributable to distracted driving increased on a percentage basis faster than those for speeding, drunk driving and failing to wear seat belts.
According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Study a greater percentage of us feel threatened by drivers texting and e-mailing than by drunk drivers. According to that same study, more than 80% of those surveyed believe texting or e-mailing is a very serious threat to their safety, yet more than 40% reported having sent texts or e-mails and more than 30% reported reading texts or e-mails while driving. A number of distracted driving prevention apps already exist, but since they are optional, requiring drivers to specifically choose to use them, they have not seen wide-spread acceptance.
Given the public’s reluctance to give up iPhone use while driving, making DNDWD’s use optional, is nonsensical.
Apple knows that drivers using iPhones are causing fatal crashes and has been sued several times by families tragically affected by drivers’ dangerous use of iPhones. Apple cannot legitimately believe that when given a choice to engage DNDWD, or to opt out, that drivers will choose to engage DNDWD. Apple will make it easy for iPhone users to bypass DNDWD by providing an option to select “I am not driving.” From a technological approach, what is needed is to make it impossible for drivers to opt out of the protection afforded by DNDWD. Given that Apple has already patented that technology, and that technology exists which has the ability to distinguish smartphone use by drivers from passengers, Apple’s failure to utilize those technologies in DNDWD is very disappointing.