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New Apple feature could prevent distracted driving

In response to a rising tide of distracted driving-related, injury-causing and fatal auto accidents, technology companies like Apple are creating features to help stave off distractions behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported more than 391,000 injuries related to distracted driving in 2016 alone, and thousands more people lost their lives. The fatal accident rate in particular spiked last year.

The "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature can use either Bluetooth or wi-fi accessibility to determine when a user's phone is in a moving vehicle. Once that has been determined, the phone's screen will remain free of displayed text messages, reminders and phone alerts until the car stops. An auto-populated message will respond to incoming texts telling the sender that the user is currently driving and that messages will be returned shortly.

Pre-selected senders will be given the option to label their incoming message as "urgent" and override the "do not disturb" feature, but Apple obviously cautions against overuse of that. For vehicle passengers, there will be an option to continue full use of the phone; this way they aren't stuck on a long journey with no access to text, email, web browsing or social media.

There currently exists on both Apple and Android platforms the ability to establish a "do not disturb" mode, but it doesn't come with all the features the new Apple approach would, including the auto-reply option specifically detailing that the user is currently driving.

Apple's distraction-preventing tech will be integrated into its newest operating system, ios11, when it launches this fall. The beta version will be available in July for users willing to put up with a few possible "bugs." We can only hope that this and similar technologies, along with increasing awareness of the many hazards associated with distracted driving, will begin to make a difference where car accidents are concerned.

In the meantime, if you've been hurt by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver, contact a local personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights.

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