Distracted driving is responsible for around 3,500 deaths and nearly 400,000 accidents per year, giving it the dubious distinction of being second only to drunk driving when it comes to causing harm on the road. Unlike drunk driving, distracted driving is difficult to test for and doesn’t face quite the same social stigma.
To try and help combat the problem, Apple put a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature into the most recent version of its mobile operating system, iOS 11. The feature turns on a Do Not Disturb mode that hides most incoming texts and notifications when it senses you’re on the move, preventing your phone from distracting you in the first place.
According to a new survey by insurance company EverQuote, the change is already having an effect, albeit a small one. The company surveyed users of its app and found that among those who had Do Not Disturb While Driving, phone usage while driving was a self-reported 8% lower than it was before the release of iOS 11. Additionally, 75% of drivers with Do Not Disturb While Driving enabled felt it made them a safer driver.
There’s clearly still a ways to go with the education of the population. The most-cited reason for people not to have Do Not Disturb While Driving enabled was that they wanted to be able to receive emergency phone calls; however, you can configure your phone to allow certain calls through.
Although iOS 11 was only released recently, it’s possible that any significant impact will show up in accident statistics. The vast majority of iPhones currently in use are compatible with iOS 11, and iPhone users make up a little over 40% of the total smartphone population. With those kinds of numbers, it’s easily possible that even an 8% reduction in phone use would lead to hundreds of fewer deaths per year, and tens of thousands fewer injuries.