The new “do not disturb while driving” function — one that users will need to choose to activate — will be a part of Apple‘s software update set for release this fall, iOS 11.
The screen will remain blank when notifications come in as long as the feature is active. Users can also choose to have an auto-reply sent to the number trying to reach them (as long as it’s listed in their “Favourites”), with a message of their choice.
There will be an option to override the function, by tapping an “I’m not driving” button.
Considering there are an estimated 700 million iPhones in use around the world, CAA chief strategy officer Jeff Walker says the tool is a great first step in helping to tackle distracted driving.
With the rise of smartphones, distracted driving has overtaken impaired driving as the “No. 1 driver safety issue,” said Walker.
“I think if you asked the people at Apple, they’d tell you this is an unintended consequence of the technology they created,” said Walker. “I think my only problem here is I wish they’d done it sooner.
“Seeing it embedded within the framework of the new iOS, we think is great.”
In a perfect world this function would be mandatory, said Walker, but that’s just not practical.
“The reality is if people really want to get around something they will find a way,” said Walker.
Nearly 75 per cent of Canadian drivers admit to driving while distracted, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Penalties for drivers caught distracted behind the wheel range from demerit points to fines upwards of $1,000.
But the bigger problem with distracted driving is that it can be deadly. The Ontario Provincial Police said last year that deaths attributed to distracted driving were more than double that of impaired driving.
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Having the tech giant include this function in its devices is a big step toward creating “social norms,” said Walker, so that ignoring the ever-present smartphone while behind the wheel becomes second nature.
“I’m happy they did it. It’s like fixing a bug,” said Walker.
If you’d like to try out the function before it’s released you can sign up here to take part in the Apple Beta Software Program.