New iPhones stop drivers receiving notifications – is it enough?

Driver texting on mobile phone whilst driving

Apple announced that the new version of their mobile operating system, iOS 11, will have a ‘Do Not Disturb for Driving’ mode. iOS 11 is due for release in September 2017 and this new feature will block notifications appearing if a device is connected to a vehicle through Bluetooth or a cable – or if it simply senses you may be in a car.

This means any new messages or push notifications will not appear, and the screen will remain blank so it no longer distracts drivers while they are behind the wheel.

iPhone users will be able to set up an automatic reply to selected contacts to let them know they are driving and can’t respond at that time. It will be possible for those sending a message to reply to this automatic response with the word ‘urgent’ to notify drivers in the case of genuine emergency situations.

With early statistics indicating that drivers are still using their mobile phones whilst driving, despite harsher penalties being introduced in March this year, this is welcome news.

It was found that more than 200 drivers a day in the UK were caught using their mobile, totalling 6,000 drivers in the first 4 weeks after new penalties were introduced on 1st March.

Now drivers caught using their mobile will receive 6 penalty points and a fine of £200. This essentially means any new drivers found using their phones at the wheel within two years of passing their tests will have their license revoked by DVLA and will need to re-apply for a provisional license.

What about the distraction of hands-free phones?

In the UK, it is not illegal to use hands-free technology to make calls and the technology is often an inbuilt feature in newer cars.

However, hands-free phones have been found to be just as dangerous as using a mobile in the conventional way. Research by the University of Sussex suggests that chatting on hands-free is just as distracting as chatting on a hand-held mobile as drivers were slower to react to hazards - or even spot them at all.

Is it legal to use sat navs in a car?

As with hands-free, using a sat nav in a car is not illegal in the UK. However, if it causes the driver to be distracted and to not be in full control of the vehicle, the same penalties apply as if the driver were using a hand-held phone.

Although the new features being introduced by Apple should hopefully tackle this safety issue further, there are more distractions than simply receiving notifications on your phone while you are driving.

At Digby Brown, we see first-hand the damage caused by distracted drivers on the road due to a momentary lapse in attention. We would encourage every driver to store their mobiles out of reach whilst driving and if using sat navs or hands free, to pay full attention to the roads and environment around you.