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Apple to Block Texts While Driving

Apple has responded to the outcry over distracted driving deaths with a new iPhone feature.

Distracted driving is said to account for nine traffic deaths in the U.S. every single day. Many municipalities have taken their own steps to try to curb the use of cell phones through ordinances that require hands-free headsets or penalize drivers busted for sending text messages. Yet studies have shown that these ordinances don’t really reduce accidents. In fact, a 2014 analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Data Loss Institute indicates that even with strong enforcement, cellphone and texting bans aren't reducing crashes reported to insurers.

This persistent trend has encouraged more and more public outcry, especially that which emphasizes the role of tech companies in better enforcing the safe use of their devices behind the wheel.

Apple has responded to the outcry, announcing a new iPhone feature at its developers conference this week called "Do Not Disturb While Driving." The feature will be launched with Apple’s iOs 11 and works like this: whenever the phone is connected to a car using either Bluetooth or a cable, or if the car is moving, the phone will withhold any notifications for things like text messages or news updates.

Your phone is also capable of responding automatically to a text, telling the sender that you’re driving and won’t be able to respond immediately.

But Apple says that its navigation system will still be available to drivers, though they won’t be able to input any locations, and so will Apple CarPlay, a different Apple car interface designed to allow drivers to hear and respond to text messages using voice commands and to safely use other iPhone features while driving.

And not to fear if you’re a passenger – you can disable Do Not Disturb While Driving. Which kind of begs the question – can’t the drivers just say they’re the passenger? It seems as though the type of chronic offenders who are truly addicted to their phones will just establish their own workarounds. If you’re already serious about keeping distracted driving to a minimum, maybe you don’t need this feature.

Whether I’m right or not, there’s one thing Apple has in abundance and that’s users. So if this feature is widely adopted, it won’t be long before we can determine if it’s really effective, or just another tech effort that can’t fix the real problem – humans.

I’m Anna Wells and this is IEN Now.

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