Get the Most Out of Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving Mode

By: Chris Smith

Last September, Apple addressed criticisms, lawsuits, and their moral responsibility regarding distracted driving by adding a new Do Not Disturb While Driving mode to the release of iOS 11. Although it’s effectiveness as a full solution to distracted driving has been questioned, the feature gave a much needed boost for widespread distracted driving awareness. Understanding the basic setup and features of Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving mode (DND mode) could help you make the right decision to stay safe on the road. Additionally, learning about technology that integrates with the feature will allow you to effectively change your distracted driving habits and get the most out of Do Not Disturb mode.

How to Set Up Do Not Disturb Mode

Setup Steps:

  1. 1. Go to System settings -> Do Not Disturb
  2. 2. Find the section for “Do not disturb while driving”
  3. 3. Set the “Activate” setting to either “Automatic”, “Bluetooth”, or “Manual”.

How To Setup iOS Do Not Disturb While Driving Mode

About Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving Mode

Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving mode can automatically detect when you might be driving. It then silences incoming notifications and keeps your iPhone screen dark. To further minimize distractions while you drive, notifications will not appear on the lock screen. These are the basic functions of the DND mode, but there are a few advanced features and details to understand.

Driving Detection

In the Do Not Disturb settings you can choose to activate automatically, only when connected to Bluetooth, or manually. You can start the feature manually from the Control Center before your drive. A Bluetooth connection to a car provides the clearest indication that you are in a vehicle. When iPhone connects with your car’s hands-free system, Do Not Disturb While Driving mode will start automatically, and will end when Bluetooth is disconnected. If your car does not have Bluetooth, iPhone uses other sources of information such as nearby Wi-Fi networks and the accelerometer to detect that you’re in the car. This doesn’t provide the same level of accuracy as Bluetooth connections, and may delay DND mode’s start or end. 

Messages and Alerts

While you are driving, incoming messages are silenced and an auto-reply message can be sent. You can customize who will receive automatic replies while you are driving in Do Not Disturb While Driving mode. By default, your “Favorites” will be selected from your contacts to receive auto-replies. Choosing “Recents” will send auto-replies to anyone you may have sent a message to that day or the day before – regardless of whether they are in your contact list. Selecting the “Contacts” auto-reply option sends a message to any of your contacts. You can also disable the feature by choosing “No One”. Not only can you determine who receives the auto-replies, you can also configure custom replies for specific groups of people.

DND mode also silences notifications and alerts. However,  some alerts, such as emergency alerts, timers, and alarms, will still activate normally, even when DND mode is active.

Setup of Auto-Reply Feature:

  1. 1. Set the “Auto-Reply To” setting to either “All Contacts”, “Favorites”, or “Recents”
  2. 2. Customize the Auto-Reply message to say whatever you’d like. (We have a few clever ideas to try out!)

How to Setup Auto Reply for iOS Do Not Disturb While Driving Mode with Motovate

Phone Calls

With Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode, calls are allowed from  your “Favorites”. If your car has Bluetooth calling options, incoming calls won’t be silenced but will be routed through your car’s system. Use your steering wheel or car controls to complete your call when it is safe to do so. Despite research showing that ‘hands-free’ is still dangerous, cell phone use while driving is sometimes unavoidable and should be done in the safest way possible. 

Extra Features of Do Not Disturb Mode

On top of basic silencing features, Apple’s Do Not Disturb mode has a few advanced options for customizing your experience.

Location Privacy Settings

Do Not Disturb While Driving uses Location Services to help determine if you may be driving or if you are near your home, work or a predicted destination. You can turn off Location Services for Do Not Disturb While Driving. To do so, open Settings, tap Privacy, tap Location Services, tap System Services, and slide the Location-Based Alerts switch to “off”.

Passenger Options

Since iPhone can only determine when you are in a vehicle and not whether you are a driver, there may be situations when Do Not Disturb mode still activates when you are a passenger, riding a bus, or other such situation. If that is the case, you can unlock your iPhone by telling it you are not driving, and iPhone will remain out of Do Not Disturb While Driving mode until the end of the current journey.

Using Siri with DND Mode

Siri is a great way to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Say “Hey Siri” to activate Siri while Do Not Disturb While Driving mode is activated. Siri will then provide you with information in such a way that you won’t need to look at your iPhone. Siri will read out all responses to you, and your phone screen will not display any text on it.

Allowing Calls and Texts

Despite attempts to limit all distractions, DND mode does allow some calls and texts to circumvent the iOS feature. Messages on a thread marked “Urgent” from your predefined set of contacts are allowed for the duration of your drive. This feature allows important notifications to slip through DND mode (or unimportant messages from anyone who knows this trick). You can even enable “Repeated Calls” so that a second call from the same person within three minutes will be allowed to come through.

Technology that Works with DND Mode

The fact that some calls and texts are allowed to continue as distractions, and features like CarPlay keep Do Not Disturb mode from activating, begs the question, “Is Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving mode an effective solution for distracted driving?”. While we may never be able to totally eliminate all distractions, we can provide better incentives for ignoring them. This is where the additional technology of apps like Motovate comes to the rescue.

The Motovate app works with the iOS Do Not Disturb mode, but also provides an effective method for changing driving habits all together. Using behavioral change science, friendly competition, and the power of positive incentives, Motovate turns safe driving into a fun, rewarding trend. To find out more about Motovate and how it works with iPhones in Do Not Disturb mode, visit



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