Is Do Not Disturb While Driving Reducing Car Crashes?

(Adam Engst) #1

Originally published at:

It has been over 18 months since Apple introduced the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature in iOS 11. Has it made a difference in the number of automobile crashes and, most importantly, fatalities related to distracted driving? Unfortunately, the answer is unsatisfying.

(John Burt) #2

Slightly different but related subject. You might be interested to know scientists in England did a study on distractions in general. One interesting result, there was no difference in distraction level between talking on a held hand phone and a hands free setup. The conversation itself is the distraction. I’m still going to use my bluetooth while dodging potholes. :wink:

It was reported on the Naked Scientist podcast.

1 Like
(Mike McGraw) #3

I think we need an emoticon with a monkey pressing a cellphone to its ear. Or maybe several of the emos can have an optional phone. :smirk:. :blonde_woman:t3::ear::calling:

(David Weintraub) #4

I have DND turned on while driving, but CarPlay overrides that. I get text messages even with DND on.And, I get to reply to these messages with Siri too:

“Siri, Send a message to my wife, tell her ‘I’ll be home soon.’”

“Okay, Sending a message to your wife saying ‘I need a home spoon.’”

“No! Change!. Tell her ‘I’ll be home soon.’”

“Sending message ‘Tell her I’ll be home soon’”

"NO! Change! Send message “I’ll be home soon”

“Whom shall I send that message to?”

At this point, Damn the distracted driving. I’m just going to run my car into the nearest concrete embankment.

(John Burt) #5

Laughed out loud. Thanks.

(Diane D) #6

HAHAHAHA That’s usually my experience. The worst is when I see her type the correct thing on the screen as I’m asking, and it’s changed in the text preview.

Some days her hearing is perfect, other days I think she is trying to p*** me off.


(mpainesyd) #7

Or a link to this Youtube video - but then I suppose people would look at the video while driving!

(David Ross) #8

A year or so ago I heard a news report on pedestrian countdown timer crossing lights. Turns out that there were a bit fewer accidents involving pedestrians year to year in the US. Small but measurable change. But interestingly there was
a small but similar INCREASE in car to car traffic accidents at the same intersections. Small but, again, measurable. Seems the people were paying better attention to when it was safe to walk but the drivers were using the countdown to try and shave it closer
in getting through the intersection. With more collisions the result.

(Adam Engst) #9

Yes, I’ve heard this as well, and I’m not too surprised. I’ve always considered it a bandwidth problem—your brain can process only so many streams of data at once, and cell phone conversations are very low quality audio, generally, forcing your brain to do a lot more processing to fill in the quality gaps. I seldom have phone calls while driving over the car’s Bluetooth system, but when it has happened, I find myself having to concentrate pretty hard to understand what’s being said. So yes, it’s probably a little better to have both hands on the wheel than not, but the real issue is what you can process.

Having other people in the car plays into this. With little kids, for instance, you may have to do conversation processing an inappropriate times (such as when there’s a tricky driving situation happening). With an adult you know well in the front seat, conversation will usually just pause during such situations. But I’ve even found that it can be harder to drive with people I don’t know well in the car, since I’m often working harder at the conversation than I would if it were just Tonya, for instance.

(Diane D) #10

I rarely drive with anyone, and when I do I find them incredibly distracting. And not that they talk my ear off, it’s just that having anyone in the passenger seat can be a lot to process. I couldn’t fathom 3 passengers.

I hesitate to admit this, but I think the issue has increased with age. :-/


(John Burt) #11

You pretty much nailed what the researchers found Adam. It’s a good podcast if you like hard science.

(Simon) #12

I always thought that having a heated debate in your car with a passenger would not be not really different from a phone call in terms of safety.

The one difference I would see is that my passenger might recognize when we’re in a tricky situation. They can pause the conversation or they know why I’m not replying right away. That’s something somebody on the phone is unaware of and cannot accommodate for.

(Simon) #13

Regarding DNDWD I remember being ridiculed as a luddite when I claimed this would not really change things for the better. I was entirely expecting this to be a nice marketing stunt for Apple, but not really something that would make driving substantially safer.

I think the problem with people playing with their phones while driving has to do with a lack of awareness for the hazards coupled with a simple disregard for others’ safety and/or lack of responsibility for one’s own actions. I still believe that you cannot engineer away negligence.

Those people who think their texting is more important than keeping their focus on traffic 100% are the same people who will immediately switch off DNDWD when they realize they missed a text because of it. Sure, you’ll manage to sneak it by a few if it’s default on and they don’t figure out how to switch it off or forget. But to large extent, I’m sure people who actively support something like this are responsible enough to drive according to the law, while those who think they are more important than everybody else, will easily thwart simple engineering measures like these. Short of forcing the phone off while driving (in which case those people might just go buy a different phone) you can’t win.

IMHO what we really need is traffic enforcement. From my own experience, it’s better in FL and TX, but here in CA there’s basically no CHP anymore, and hardly any enforcement on city roads. People drive at whatever speed they choose, they drive after drinking, and they have no problem texting on the highway or in front of a traffic light. Unless we chose to sanction that behavior with heavy fines and suspended licenses, I have no doubt we will see more and more of these types of collisions (they’re not accidents!). Statistics already showed that the many-year trend of fewer traffic casualties from improved safety design (airbags etc.) stopped and in fact started turning upwards again once cell phones started to become more common.

(Marc Z) #14

I was entirely expecting this to be a nice marketing stunt for Apple, but not really something that would make driving substantially safer.

All I know is right after DNDWD came out I was with a friend in my car and he tried to use my phone to look up the location of the restaurant we wanted to go to and he couldn’t. DNDWD couldn’t tell the difference between me, the driver, using the phone, and the passenger.

I think it also wouldn’t let me use the phone when parked in a parking lot before I went anywhere.

I immediately turned it off and haven’t used it since. Utterly useless technology in my mind. Apple just added it for the PR and did not even try to take real-life usage into account.

(Adam Engst) #15

There are settings for that. You can choose among Automatically (which is based on detected motion), When Connected to Car Bluetooth, and Manually. If your friend had the second one selected, it would work in his car, but not in yours. And of course, you can always just tap the notification and then tap “I’m not driving” to get out of it.

The goal is not to be draconian; it’s to remind drivers that they shouldn’t be futzing with the phone while driving because that’s really stupid.

(Marc Z) #16

There are settings for that.

Good point. It’s been so long I’d forgotten!

In this case it was set to automatically go on when connected to my car’s Bluetooth. Motion would be better. I might try and see if it works better.

(John Burt) #17

Simon that also is exactly what they said. Audiobooks were a distraction because they use the visual centers of the brain.

(Rob Russell) #18

I get more distracted trying to work out why my phone won’t connect to Bluetooth than dndwd

(Adam Engst) #19

Hah! DNDWD doesn’t (well, shouldn’t, I’ve certainly never seen any) have any effect on whether your phone does or does not connect to Bluetooth in the car. All it does is discourage you from using the screen of your phone (and silence notifications) while you’re driving.

(senortim) #20

I’ll just add that having recently got a newer car – one that has modern electronics, instead of my old '91 Honda which didn’t have a working radio! – the car itself is a significant distraction. Figuring out the whole back and forth between CarPlay and my regular radio has caused me to take my eyes off the road plenty of times. And then what @david19 said about interacting with Siri – plus my frequent lack of connection to the internet (perhaps because I’m on an ancient iPhone) – means that I usually try not to use my phone at all while driving.

My phone doesn’t support DNDWD, but even when I get one that does, I doubt it will help me much. I will turn it on, of course. But I feel like those who are involved in distracted driving accidents are less likely to be using DNDWD in any case.