Apple has announced that its next iPhone software update will feature a ‘do not disturb while driving’ mode.
Due later this year, the iOS 11 update will provide all iPhones with the function, which is designed to address the dangers associated with smartphones and distraction.
The software will sense when a person is driving, and when activated will block notifications from calls, texts and social media. The user won’t even be able to access the phone’s homescreen to open apps.
The driver will be able to set an automatic text response to notify anyone attempting to make contact that they’re currently behind the wheel.
The new feature will assume a person is driving if their phone is connected to the car via Bluetooth. Alternatively, it will use a phone’s WiFi antenna to sense when it’s moving at car speeds.
Passengers will be able to override the feature by turning on the screen with the iPhone power button and then clicking on a button marked ‘I’m not driving’.
Once the update has taken place, Apple will prompt drivers to use the new feature on the first occasion that they drive with an iOS 11-powered iPhone.
Pete Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “These days it is less phone calls and more the pings and buzzes of texts and social media apps that have the potential to distract a driver from the task at hand.
“So we’re pleased that at last millions of drivers that use an Apple iPhone are about to be able to put an end to intrusive notifications while they’re behind the wheel.
“Apple took out a series of patents more than three years ago designed to address the issue of driver safety, so while this new feature has been rather a long time coming it’s a positive step that the majority of drivers with an iOS device will be able to benefit from it by the autumn."
It has also been welcomed by Brake, who describes mobile phone use behind the wheel as a ‘growing menace’.
Jason Wakeford, spokesman for the road safety charity, said: "This new feature is to be welcomed and will help drivers stay focused on the road and not their phones. Mobile use behind the wheel is a growing menace and so Brake would like to see similar initiatives from other phone manufactures to help cut distractions in the car.
"Advances in technology must also be accompanied by rigorous enforcement and tougher penalties for those who flout the law. Traffic policing should be made a national priority, to ensure that drivers have the expectation that if they use a mobile phone behind the wheel, they will be caught and punished."
Want to know more about mobile phones and road safety?
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory (driver distraction)