Focus on eliminating distracted driving Thursday

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

The National Distracted Driving Coalition (NDDC) is urging all drivers to “set it and forget it” on the second annual National Do Not Disturb While Driving Day, which takes place Thursday.

All cellphones can be set to automatically silence calls and alerts when the user is driving.  Even better, once the feature is switched on, the driver never has to think about it again, says NDDC Chair Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

“When your phone rings or dings, the urge to check it is hard to resist,” she said. “Putting your phone in Do Not Disturb While Driving mode eliminates that temptation. Your phone won’t ring or beep until you get where you’re going, helping ensure that you keep your eyes and mind on the road. It could save your life.”

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Distracted driving remains a major problem on U.S. roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  They estimate that distraction was involved in 29% of all crashes in 2019, resulting in more than 10,000 fatalities.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says cellphones are among the main culprits, as the crash risk is 2-6 times higher when drivers are manipulating a cellphone, compared with when they aren’t distracted.

While system designers use different names for the feature, the Do Not Disturb function can be set to turn on automatically when the user is driving on both iOS and Android devices. Using the phone’s sensors and proximity to known Bluetooth connections to determine if the owner is driving, the feature will silence incoming notifications and can be set to send an automatic reply informing the person calling or texting that the user is driving and will respond later.

However, the NDDC says past research found that only 1 in 5 iPhone users have switched the feature on.  Getting more drivers to set their phones to automatically engage Do Not Disturb when starting a trip is the goal of the awareness day.