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How to use Do Not Disturb While Driving

When Apple first announced Do Not Disturb While Driving, a feature introduced in iOS 11 that hides incoming notifications while you're driving, I was a little skeptical — surely automatically enabling Do Not Disturb when someone hits the road would do little to change how they interact with their device while driving. However, I've been using the feature for about a year now and I I've seen the proverbial light. It has genuinely changed the way I interact with my phone while on the road. I think it could change others' habits as well, provided they give the feature a try.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2015 alone more than 390,000 people were injured and 3,477 were killed in vehicular accidents caused by distracted driving. Choosing to limit your distractions while driving could literally save lives — Do Not Disturb While Driving can help you do this.

What you need to know about Do Not Disturb While Driving

There's a lot to learn about Do Not Disturb While Driving but if you'd rather skip ahead to the how-to, click or tap right here!

Do Not Disturb While Driving is an extension of Apple's Do Not Disturb feature, which limits notifications on demand or during a schedule you set up. Along with limiting or muting notifications, Do Not Disturb While Driving can also reply to contacts who send you messages while you're driving, giving them a heads-up that you're on the road.

One of the most effective aspects of Do Not Disturb While Driving is that it can be set to turn on automatically. See, forgetting to enable the feature and only realizing you left it off after you receive a text message from a friend or a Snapchat message from a family member sort of defeats the purpose. So much of our "need" to engage with our phones exists in that moment we see it light up with a notification — suddenly you're missing out on something and "what if it's important" or "what if it's an emergency" or "what if someone needs an answer from me" or … you get the picture. Seeing a notification gets your brain spinning with a mixture of FOMO (fear of missing out) and maybe even a little anxiety.

You can set Do Not Disturb While Driving to turn on automatically. In fact, there are three different activation methods:

  1. Automatically: Do Not Disturb While Driving will be activated automatically based on detected motion. The feature will use your phone's internal sensors to try to sense when you're driving.
  2. When Connected to Car Bluetooth: In most cases, iOS can tell the difference between a regular Bluetooth speaker and in-car Bluetooth. If you have a vehicle with Bluetooth connectivity, Do Not Disturb While Driving will activate when it connects to your car's Bluetooth-enabled receiver.
  3. Manually: If you'd rather enable or disable the feature manually (again, I think this is the least effective method) in Control Center, you'd choose this activation method.

Once the feature has been activated — or you've enabled it manually — iOS gets a little, erm, shamey — but in a good way! Trying to unlock your device will require an extra step: you have to tap a button that says I'm Not Driving. The feature exists for passengers who have Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on and set to activate automatically or when connected to car Bluetooth.

You'd think an extra step would do little to discourage interaction, but it's sort of like a little kick in the conscience. I'll admit I've been known to read and respond to notifications at stop lights and signs and in line at drive-thrus. With Do Not Disturb While Driving enabled, however, this is how it's gone:

  • I come to a stop light or I'm stuck waiting in a drive-thru.
  • My brain goes, "Mikah, it sure has been a looooooooong time since you last looked at your phone. You're sooooo bored sitting here and you should DEFINITELY check your phone to see if you've got any messages."
  • I go, "You're right, brain. Y'know, you've never led me astray and I love that about you," and I reach out and tap my phone screen.
  • My iPhone reminds me I've got Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on by showing a button I have to press that says I'm Not Driving.
  • I go, "UGH. I am driving. I can't press that button."
  • I do not press that button.

It's gotten to a point where I don't even get to the step where I reach out and tap my screen. I stop myself from looking at my phone and just enjoy the music I've got playing and go on driving (or waiting if I'm stuck in a drive-thru).

How to enable Do Not Disturb While Driving

If you want to enable Do Not Disturb While Driving, here's how!

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap Do Not Disturb.
  3. Scroll down to the section marked Do Not Disturb While Driving.
  4. Tap Activate.
  5. Choose your activation method.

How to adjust Auto-Reply settings

Do Not Disturb While Driving can reply when people send you a message while you're driving, letting them know you're on the road and unavailable. If a person really needs to get through, they can send the word "Urgent" and iOS will trigger a notification on your device.

Here's how to adjust those settings and customize your Auto-Reply message!

How to choose Auto-Reply contacts

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap Do Not Disturb.
  3. Scroll down to the section marked Do Not Disturb While Driving.
  4. Tap Auto-Reply To.
  5. Choose to which contacts you want Do Not Disturb While Driving to reply. No One will disable Auto-Reply. Recents will automatically reply to recent contacts. Favorites will only automatically reply to your favorite contacts. All Contacts will, of course, automatically reply to all your contacts.

How to change your Auto-Reply message

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Tap Do Not Disturb.
  3. Scroll down to the section marked Do Not Disturb While Driving.
  4. Tap Auto-Reply.
  5. Tap in the text box and change it to your desired message.

Are you using Do Not Disturb While Driving?

Are you using Do Not Disturb While Driving? Do you enjoy or dislike the feature? Give us a shout on Twitter or leave a comment below!

Updated July 2018 This article was updated with revised references to settings in iOS 12.

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

12 Comments
  • I don't think Apple has thought this whole thing through. DND is a great feature. But for someone who uses a navigation app, like Waze or Maps, it's virtually useless. I would prefer the DND option be part of navigation; allowing me to use my maps but not be otherwise disturbed. If there is a way around this now, I'd like to know about ***.
  • Agreed! Great first whack at a new feature. Now if they added an “exceptions” list to include specific apps and contacts, it would become even more useful! Then we would be able to specify apps like Waze as an exception app and contacts like Mom as an exception contact, both of whose notifications would be automatically allowed through without hinderance.
  • I agree, specifically with the extra nag when trying to unlock the phone. Not only do I have to lie and say I’m not driving, I then have to re-enable DND! All just to check Waze or change my music after my phone locks.
  • So does Siri shut off too? What about syncing the phone to my stereo to listen to music or podcasts? Is navigation in Maps disabled?
  • Neither Apple Maps, nor third-party mapping maps are disabled, though I have not yet tested traffic notifications while using either.
    You can listen to music and podcasts, and Siri control of them is still available to you.
  • I'm confused. I have to check this again. I just downloaded the update last night and was pleased at first with the Do Not Disturb while driving. However, I was using my gps as I was driving a route I was unfamiliar with and all of a sudden I realized my google maps wasn't speaking to me. I had to quickly, while driving, figure out how to get out of the DND and almost had an accident. I don't know why the maps wasn't speaking to me. I had my phone running through my bluetooth in my car and music was playing. The google map directions just stopped. I'll try it again while I'm driving roads I'm familiar with.
  • You can also turn it on and off in Control Center, I think.
  • How does it work with CarPlay?
  • Auto reply will not work on car play. I have tested it several times. I get the text on my phone but I get no notification ( yes, its set up for notifications) nor does the sender get an auto reply ( yes, they are a contact and I have it set to respind to contacts) Any suggestions? Thanks.
  • For me its not a problem most of the time. Most of my driving is relatively short distances around town or close by so I can get my messages quickly anyway. I can also use my sync in my car to listen to messages and get back with people quickly.
  • It also appears that DND does not work with "aftermarket" bluetooth kits, such as the USASpec BT45-HON that I installed in my 2012 Honda Accord, but DND works correctly in my wife's 2013 Honda CRV with factory bluetooth.
  • In other words: unusable with Waze/Maps/Google Maps.
    Ok turned the Activate back to Manually
    I can proudly say I've almost used DND!