The Long-Awaited iPhone Distracted Driving Mode

by: Jess Goodwin

Thanks, Apple! (It’s About Time)

When Apple releases the iOS 11 operating system later this year, a long-awaited, life-saving feature will be included.  The new iPhone distracted driving mode, (actually called “Do Not Disturb While Driving”) will silence notifications while you’re driving, and auto-reply to text messages as well.

It is crucial that a company like Apple get behind distracted driving prevention. Especially because they can be such a voice for awareness. It’s not like they’ve been oblivious to the growing epidemic of distracted driving. In December of last year, Apple was sued for a collision involving distracted driving, and later there was another lawsuit for not using the iPhone safety feature that they’d already patented.

And, of course, they have seen many apps submitted to itunes that aim to prevent distracted driving. By design, Apple has tight limitations on what an app can do, so it has been difficult for developers to come up with effective solutions within their guidelines. By limiting an app’s control over the operating system (which is admittedly reasonable), they inadvertently were limiting who could use popular solutions to drive text-free.

Now, with the introduction of the iPhone distracted driving mode, they have covered their butts from future lawsuits AND they’ll help to save more lives! We commend Apple for taking action and we support anything that is helping to battle distracted driving, but Apple’s solution is only added to the list of other quick fixes.


All the Ingredients for Behavior Change

The new iPhone distracted driving mode is great and will, no doubt, help some people to make the right decision to drive text-free. But it’s only half of the solution. For a texting-and-driving solution to be effective and adoptable, it has to address the human element of habit.

The habit of text messaging

Those who text and drive, don’t usually do it because they WANT to risk their lives – they are victims of a classic habit loop. A psychological habit loop is defined by three things: 1. A cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold (the phone notification), 2. The routine behavior itself (texting behind the wheel) and 3. A reward that your brain likes that helps it remember the “habit loop” in the future (staying hyper-connected).

FOMO (or the ‘fear of missing out’) is a huge factor here. Calming FOMO by checking a phone notification counts as the reward in this case. And for someone who is stuck in the habit loop who can’t willinging disconnect, that reward has to be replaced with a positive incentive in order to create a new, healthy habit.


Comparing Apples to Oranges

So, how does Apple’s new iphone distracted driving mode address the habit-breaking needs of real-world drivers? Well, it doesn’t really. Critics have cited several things wrong with with Apple’s new ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature and those of us in the distracted driving industry can easily see the missed opportunities for reducing tragedy.

Just having a tool to protect from distraction does not mean people will use it. The current structure requires iPhone users to make a conscious decision to use it every single time they drive. And for no added reward, except for the implicit reward of “doing the right thing”. But that reward has been there all along as a ‘mute’ or ‘off’ button! For the people who really need to use it, it’s not a strong enough reward to eliminate FOMO.

The functionality of TextNinja, however, has fully addressed this issue. The TextNinja app sweetens the decision to do right with the incentive of tangible rewards. In fact, the app not only breaks the habit loop of texting-while-driving, but helps drivers to create new, safe habits. Getting your text-free driving points in order to qualify for premium rewards (like this month’s concert tickets from Rukkus) can become a pretty addictive routine!

TextNinja breaks the habit of texting and driving

There are other ways, too, that the Apple solution falls short of the black-belted or even orange-belted (beginner level) TextNinja. Awareness promotion and a collection of efforts is extremely important to change the social perspective of distracted driving. Apple seems to (so far) have slapped on a band-aid, where TextNinja supports non-profits promoting awareness and prevention.


So, Now What Are You Waiting For?

While Apple’s iPhone distracted driving mode is an awesome first step, it can’t effectively prevent texting and driving. It is missing some ingredients that are required for real behavior change. However, it is crucial to #joinforces and work together as a society to battle distracted driving. For that reason, we’re happy that Apple is on board! Now we just need YOU to #takeaction!



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