Dallas Law Firm Blog

How Apple’s New iPhone iOS 11 Could Save Your Life

We all know that it is against the law to text while driving.  Many of us do it anyway.  We also know that even though we may not actually “text” while we drive, we are often distracted by the notifications – the “bings,” “tweets,” “chirps,” “swishes,” and many other sounds that we’ve assigned to the texts, emails, voicemails and other notices that come into our phone to let us know that someone/some entity has contacted us in some way.  And, to make matters worse, we are tempted to look to see what those sounds are signaling us about.  We take our eyes off the road, even for a split second.  And, a lot can happen in a split second.

According to research completed in 2015, nearly one in five traffic crashes in Texas is caused by a distracted driver. In that same year, approximately 470 people were killed in a crash attributable to a distracted driver. Using the full-year statistics from 2014, there were approximately 101,000 crashes in Texas involving distracted driving, a 6 percent increase from the year before.  Nationally, the statistics aren’t much better. In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving.  In addition, statistics show that texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving, and reading a text message while driving distracts a person for at least five seconds.

With all of this in mind, Apple has added the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature to the new iOS iPhone 11, a feature that enables itself when a user connects to his vehicle’s Bluetooth and blocks incoming calls and messages when a person is operating a moving vehicle. It can also automatically respond to callers, letting them know the recipient will reply after he’s reached his destination.  This Safe Driving mode is designed to prevent distraction-related accidents.

When an iPhone owner enables Do Not Disturb While Driving, it will automatically activate when paired to a vehicle’s Bluetooth.  This feature works exactly as it sounds – when the phone detects that you are driving, it will shut down all notifications and save you from being distracted.  Apple says that even if an iPhone isn’t connected to a car’s Bluetooth, the device can sense that it’s inside a moving vehicle and will turn on the featurePassengers who aren’t behind the wheel can disable it by clicking the “I’m not driving” button.  You can decide whether to activate the feature automatically (i.e., when the phone “feels” like it’s being driven or when it’s connected to Bluetooth) or manually.

While various other cell phone companies have tried to solve the issue by offering solutions that prevent texting while driving, these solutions are able to be incorporated only at the “system level” in Android devices.  Because the iOS applications run in an entirely different “environment,” they can’t/won’t interfere with the actual iOS functions – like preventing someone from texting.  While there are other carriers still who have tried to “drop their hat in the ring” with their own solution (e.g., AT&T’s Drive Mode), these only focus on “silencing calls and text alerts” and not “push notifications” from apps.

Because the iOS feature is not a “built in feature,” the app makers have come up with ways to get around it, such as the use of external hardware.  But more often than not, those apps were only able to create a monitoring solution and not an actual tool that would block the activity.

While Apple’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature isn’t a tool for preventing texting altogether, or even alerts while a vehicle is moving, it does offer a solution to help reduce the total number of distractions overall in a way that has never been created before.  In addition to being able to tell you if your phone is connected to Bluetooth or a USB port, it can utilize the iPhone’s sensors to determine your speed, even when your phone isn’t connected to a car.

The Do Not Disturb While Driving feature is all about safety and keeping your eyes on the road.  Push notifications from apps like Twitter, Tinder and Words with Friends are just not important enough to risk your life and the lives of others while you are driving.

It is important to note, however, that the phone is not completely locked down.  The CarPlay function is still operational.  You can also still play your music and get navigational directions through maps and other routing software.  In addition, you can “customize” your “DND While Driving” by choosing which contacts (Favorites) can always get through/reach you – similar to how iOS’s “Do Not Disturb” mode currently works today.

However, when the car is in motion, anyone else who texts you will get an automated response.  They will see “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.”  They will then receive a second text that will allow them a way to “break through” and get your attention if it is an emergency.  This message reads, “If this is urgent, reply ‘Urgent’ to send a notification through with your original message.”

In addition to the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, Apple has also added the Panic Button mode.  The feature, officially referred to as “the Emergency SOS” or “cop mode,” will also send the phone into “lock down.”  It will stop other people from getting into your phone and allow you a very easy and quick way to get in contact with people in case something bad happens.  This feature will be helpful in two situations:  (1) it prevents a thief from  putting your fingerprint on the sensor before they steal the phone, enabling them to “steal” all your personal information, your money, etc.; and (2) it also prevents law enforcement officials from doing the same.  While your fingerprint is not protected under the law, your passcode is.  Therefore, a law enforcement officer cannot force you to unlock your phone using your passcode, but they can use your fingerprint if the Emergency SOS feature has not been enabled.  In addition, you can set up the phone to ring an emergency contact and/or the emergency services and/or an alarm when you swipe the Emergency SOS setting on the screen.

It is important to note that like the iPhone’s Do Not Disturb function, “favorite” contacts can still reach the driver while using the Emergency SOS feature.  So, again, if you have important people you want to be able to reach you regardless of the situation, their contact information should be listed in your “favorites.”

The team at Guajardo & Marks wants you to be safe while you drive.  Today’s technology is ever-changing and can make your life not only easier, but safer.  It is important to stay abreast of all of the technology that is available to you and your family that can help you make your life, as well as those of others, safer.  This technology can also prevent distracted driving situations and save lives.  If you or someone you love experiences a catastrophic injury as a result of a distracted driver, please contact our team at Guajardo & Marks.  We want to help answer the questions you have, address the many issues that arise and help you navigate the complex legal matters that overwhelm you.