New iOS 11 iPhone update blocks drivers from texting behind the wheel

Apple has unveiled a software update that prevents drivers receiving notifications when they are behind the wheel.

The all-new feature is called “Do Not Disturb While Driving”, and is part of the new iOS 11 software upgrade released this week.

Latest iPhone update offers a new "Do not disturb while driving" feature.

The move has been praised by road safety campaigners that have been pushing for tech companies to do more to stop drivers using their smartphones while driving, something which is now the cause more than one in four serious accidents.

It works by withholding notifications of texts, instant messages and updates while the car is on the move and connected via Bluetooth or cable, aiming to prevent drivers who would normally be distracted picking up the device in the first place.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

But what about Apple CarPlay, you may ask? Well the app itself isn’t affected, and drivers will still be able to access the Maps application, although they won’t be able to enter or change destination info when on the move.

The new feature is also able to send texts informing someone trying to contact you that you’re driving and cannot respond immediately. That said, the driver is still able to disable the feature if they really want to, but it’s a move in the right direction, according to road safety groups.

Is it the answer for drivers that can't help but check their smartphone every five minutes?

Jason Wakeford, spokesman for road safety charity Brake, said: "This new feature is to be welcomed and will help drivers stay focused on the road and not their phones. Mobile use behind the wheel is a growing menace and so Brake would like to see similar initiatives from other phone manufactures to help cut distractions in the car.

A coalition of road charities and organisations – including Brake, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety, RED Driving School, Road Safety GB and RoadPeace – has urged Android and Microsoft to follow suit, pledging to roll out an opt-out driving mode in their next updates which will:

  • Automatically, as a default setting, switch on when sensors in the handset detect the user is driving;
  • Turn the screen blank and suspend any push notifications;
  • Be able to send automatic replies via SMS to anyone contacting the user to inform them that they are driving;
  • Only permit the handset to be used in conjunction with a hands-free device when enabled; and
  • Provide evidence that the phone was in ‘drive safe’ mode – potentially leading to reduced insurance premium.

The technology comes in the wake of new, harsher penalties for dialling and driving that were introduced earlier this year, with many police forces seeing a big rise in the number of drivers breaching the new law. But some argue that the new penalties don’t go far enough.

Phone and driver

Nissan plans to stop distracted drivers with tech from the Victorian era.

RAC Be Phone Smart spokesman Pete Williams said: “Illegal handheld phone use is one of the biggest in-car problems of our time and it will take a concerted effort to get the message across to drivers that it’s simply not okay.

“We need organisations to work together and to come up with creative ways of helping drivers realise that no text or tweet while driving is worth the risk.

“Apple’s imminent iOS update is a major step forward and will mean that handsets used by millions of people will, for the first time, include in-built software that can reduce the distraction risk posed by handheld phones. Now we need the other major operating systems – Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile – to follow suit.”

Will it stop drivers from being tempted to check their phones, or will they just disable the feature and carry on regardless? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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