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Two features we want to see on Apple’s iOS 12 for Do Not Disturb While Driving

Distracted driving with smartphones is a nationwide epidemic. 3,450 people were killed by distracted driving in 2015. 391,000 people were injured. Nine die every day.

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To combat distracted driving, Apple introduced Do Not Disturb While Driving (DNDWD) with iOS 11 in September 2017. The feature blocks incoming notifications like texts and phone calls while driving. (It only allows calls if your iPhone is connected to your Bluetooth system.) It also sends automatic responses. If you haven’t activated it, we recommend you do.

A driving study from insurance aggregator Everquote suggests Apple’s efforts are making some headway. They found distraction is down 8% among drivers who have activated DNDWD. How good is this? We’ve seen cell phone laws like Oregon’s reduce distracted driving by 14%. Our own behavior modification programs have decreased distraction up to 20%.

While other programs have been more successful, an 8% drop is a good start. A big gap with Apple’s DNDWD is that it only focuses on incoming distractions. If a driver wants to pick up their iPhone and write and send a text, DNDWD isn’t going to stop them.

But an even bigger issue is that 41% of drivers aren’t aware of DNDWD. Of the people who are aware, 15% don’t believe it will make them safer drivers. One in four turns DNDWD off. This isn’t great.

2 iOS 12 features that will help save lives

The bottom line is that Do Not Disturb While Driving could be much more successful. What could Apple do? They’ll likely announce iOS 12 Monday, June 4, so we’ll see what they have in store. In the meantime, here are two DNDWD features we hope to see in iOS 12. We think these features would help reduce distracted driving, increase DNDWD adoption, and change perception even more. Not to mention save hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

1. Let developers see if DNDWD is enabled

Distracted driving affects everyone. Many technology companies like TrueMotion are fighting to eliminate it. Auto insurers and regulators are getting into the action, too.

Apple should invite everyone to join the fight and allow developers to see if DNDWD is enabled. Developers could provide rewards and incentives – not to mention reminders and notifications – to encourage users to turn it on. Auto insurers investing heavily in safe driving, like Progressive, Nationwide, and Travelers, could provide financial incentives. These could include discounts on premiums, roadside assistance, and gas for drivers who use DNDWD. Companies that don’t have the same financial resources have other options. They could increase adoption by providing incentives like bonus points or badges. Smartphone telematics companies like TrueMotion could even show the driver their change in behavior before and after activating DNDWD.

2. Provide a link to Do Not Disturb While Driving

The second feature is simple – a link to the DNDWD feature in Settings. If a developer can see when DNDWD is off, they should be able to easily help a user turn it on. A link to DNDWD would enable a user to tap a button to activate it directly. This would complete the user experience and help developers understand if their efforts to promote DNDWD are working.

Building one or both of these features into iOS 12 would greatly help developers add another strategy to fight distraction. And, hopefully, increase the effectiveness of DNDWD’s results beyond 8%.

We’ll monitor coverage from WWDC Monday and let you know about updates.

UPDATE

Apple introduced an interesting new feature to limit phone use, called Screen Time. The analytics should help increase awareness around how much time people use their phones. There are apps like Moment that already do this. But hopefully, with Screen Time being built into the iPhone core experience, it will help reduce smartphone addiction. In addition to the planned metrics, we’d like to see the location of screen time – at home, at the office, and in the car. Unfortunately, Apple did not announce new features around Do Not Disturb While Driving.

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