‘Do Not Disturb’ cellphone features may prevent car accidents

Seattle auto accident attorneyWe’ve all been there. You’re driving and your phone rings or you hear an alert and are tempted to pick up your smartphone, even if it’s just to let someone know you’re driving and can’t chat right now.

Even those few seconds of distraction can cause a serious injury -- or worse.

The Apple iPhone Do Not Disturb feature, introduced in 2017, could help prevent accidents, but the jury is still out. The Do Not Disturb option on the iPhone stops notifications, alerts and calls from making any noise, vibration or lighting up the phone screen when the screen is locked. You can turn on Do Not Disturb in your iPhone's settings. TidBits, an online review of Apple products, reports that the statistics are available, and the numbers look promising.

How effective is the Do Not Disturb Feature?

According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, the percentage of drivers talking while holding a phone to their ear dropped from 3.3 percent in 2016 to 2.9 percent in 2017, which is a statistically significant drop. The percentage of drivers using a visible headset dropped only from 0.5 percent to 0.4 percent, however, and the percentage of drivers visibly manipulating their phone dropped from 2.1 percent to 2.0 percent—neither of those decreases are statistically significant.

The study shows that more women use their phone in the car than men, and it is used most by the 16–24 age group, which also has much higher rates of using smartphones for other functions than talking while driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2017 statistics, 52,274 drivers were involved in 34,247 fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 37,133 people. Nine percent of those incidents were associated with distracted driving, resulting in 2,935 crashes and 3,166 deaths. Those numbers were down from 2016 when there were 3,197 distracted-driving crashes and 3,450 deaths.

Not all distractions, however, stem from phone use. The NHTSA’s numbers show that, in 2017, phones were involved in 14 percent of distracted-driving crashes, resulting in 401 crashes and 434 deaths, down from 453 crashes and 457 deaths in 2016. That is an improvement.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information to prove whether the Do Not Disturb feature is working, but the potential prevention seems promising enough that it is probably worth using the feature.

If you were injured in an accident and suspect phone use was a factor, contact Washington law firm Nelson Langer Engle PLLC. Our personal injury lawyers work for you and will help you recover.

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