RICHMOND—The “do not disturb while driving” setting on your cellphone isn’t just for remaining undisturbed during meetings or movies. It also can limit phone distractions behind the wheel and help make roadways safer.
Oct. 19 is the second annual National Do Not Disturb While Driving Day. To mark the occasion, the National Distracted Driving Coalition is encouraging motorists to use their phone’s “do not disturb while driving” feature before getting behind the wheel.
“It’s simple—we aren’t good at ignoring our phones,” said David Tenembaum, senior actuarial manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and DRIVE SMART Virginia board member. DSV is part of the National Distracted Driving Coalition.
“If it rings or chirps, we want to look at it, which takes our attention away from driving and increases the risk of a crash. Flipping on ‘do not disturb while driving’ will prevent those notifications and that temptation entirely. It only takes a moment of inattention to ruin your day or your life, so why risk it?”
Cellphone use and distracted driving continue to be major problems on roadways, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifying distracted driving as “a crisis that needs to be addressed now.” According to NHTSA crash data, there were 3,522 people killed and an estimated 362,415 people injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving distracted drivers in 2021.
The NHTSA also reports that reading or writing text messages while driving increases accident risk by 2,300%.
With just a few taps to activate “do not disturb while driving,” the phone will block calls, texts and other notifications when a person is driving, helping them keep their eyes focused on the road. It also helps drivers adhere to Virginia law that says it’s illegal to drive while holding a cellphone.
The calls and texts are temporarily blocked, but they’re not ignored. Incoming calls will automatically be directed to voicemail, and the feature also can be configured to send automatic replies, letting people know you’re driving.
While the “do not disturb while driving” feature is already integrated into smartphones, it’s an underutilized resource. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey found that only one in five iPhone users have Apple’s DNDWD feature set to turn on automatically when driving.
“We want that to change,” Tenembaum said. “We want people to take the quick and very important step of setting their phones’ ‘do not disturb while driving’ function to automatically engage each time they hit the road. It’s an easy way to help combat this problem.”
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