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Could the new iPhone "do not disturb" feature make roads safer?

Distracted driving is a rampant problem nationwide, with cellphone use contributing to approximately 1 in 4 crashes, according to the National Safety Council. Despite ongoing public safety campaigns designed to curb the problem, however, 33 percent of Americans still report that they've engaged in texting while driving within the last month. Clearly, something's not working.

Overcoming a technology addiction...through technology?

Cellphone use while driving can easily become something of an addiction. It's difficult to ignore those pesky notifications - especially if you're anxiously awaiting a response to a text or social media post. Giving into that temptation when you're behind the wheel can have deadly consequences. Even picking up the phone at a stoplight puts yourself - and others on the road - in danger.

Recognizing the weight of this problem, Apple recently announced a forthcoming "do not disturb" feature that will kick in whenever the phone senses you're in a moving vehicle. When enabled, this mode won't display notifications, and it won't allow you to wake up the screen while the car is in motion. It will also send auto-replies to text messages informing the sender that you're driving.

Several third-party apps with similar features already exist. And, on both Android and iOS, users can manually enable a do-not-disturb mode. The new Apple feature, however, is more robust. It will be built into the phone's operating system in the next version of iOS (due for release this fall).

Not a surefire solution

While this new feature is a step in the right direction, it's by no means a surefire solution to distracted driving. Users can disable it at anytime. Since the system can't distinguish between drivers and passengers in moving vehicles, it can easily be turned off by selecting the "I'm not driving" option. Texters can also force their messages through by indicating that they're urgent.

The feature is yet another reminder that, for those determined to keep using their phone while driving, technology likely won't stop them. It's ultimately up to each one of us to do the right thing. Only when more and more drivers are committed to distraction-free driving will we see fewer preventable deaths on the road.

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