Do Not Confuse While Driving

Jim Ross / Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Apple’s iOS 11 debuted a new Do Not Disturb While Driving feature aimed at blocking distracting calls, texts, and notifications while a person is driving. While it’s an admirable goal to minimize distracted driving, part of their design may lead to additional driver distraction.

By default, it’s set to come on automatically when the phone senses that you’re driving. It displays the following message, “Do Not Disturb. You will not receive Notifications while you are driving.” Up to that point, it makes sense.

However, the problems begin when you press the Home button. Two buttons appear, “I’m Not Driving” and “Cancel” as shown below.

iPhone Do Not Disturb notification

Is this the right time to confuse me?

Now, you could argue that I shouldn’t be trying to get into my phone while driving, even if I just want to push play on another podcast. That’s probably true, but if you believe that, I think you’d also agree that driving is not the best time to present someone with a very confusing decision.

Why is it telling me this?

I completely understand that the Do Not Disturb While Driving mode turns off notifications, which the message onscreen confirms. But why does it suddenly bring up these two options – “I’m Not Driving” and “Cancel”? Nothing about the message says that it’s also going to prevent me from getting into my phone. I’m left not understanding what’s happening and why it’s suddenly requiring me to make a choice.

To make matters worse, which of these buttons am I supposed to choose? What will tapping these buttons do?

I’m Not Driving?

Yes, I am driving, so I don’t want to choose that. I assume that would turn off the Do Not Disturb mode, which I don’t want. What I do want is to get into my phone, press play on another podcast, and then put my phone down with the Do Not Disturb mode still on. Do I need to lie and tap this button just to get into my phone? Can’t I get into my phone and leave Do Not Disturb on afterwards?


What does Cancel mean? Does it cancel the Do Not Disturb mode? The onscreen message says, “Do Not Disturb. You will not receive notifications while you are driving.” So I suppose Cancel will turn off the Do Not Disturb mode. But isn’t that also what I’m Not Driving will do? So maybe Cancel means something else?

Or is Cancel a way to get me out of this dialog of two buttons, and tapping it will take me back to the lock screen that just displays the Do Not Disturb message? If that’s what it means, then it’s a way of saying, “Oh, you’re right, never mind, I should just go back to paying attention to my driving.”

Or will tapping Cancel get me into the phone so that I can press play on my podcast? If so, does it leave the Do Not Disturb mode on or turn it off?

And more importantly…

How many thousands of feet have I distractedly traveled down the highway while pondering this confusing decision? Confronting a confusing situation when you’re sitting at your desk or on the couch is one thing, trying to figure it out while barreling down the highway defeats the whole purpose of this anti driver distraction feature.

How could this be improved?

First, change the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature so that it allows people to get into their phones without having to consider and press any additional buttons. It should still block notifications, but it shouldn’t make it harder for drivers to get into their phones. Creating extra buttons to read, figure out, and then press, only adds to driver distraction instead of preventing it. If drivers want to get into their phones, they will find a way. Don’t make it harder. Simply block notifications.

Second, provide an easy way to turn off the Do Not Disturb mode, for those times when it turns on incorrectly, such as for passengers or people in a train. Perhaps tapping on the Do Not Disturb message on the lock screen should take users into the Settings for the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. Or tapping on the notification could bring up the “I’m Not Driving” button.

Overall, this is a great feature, with good intentions, but a simple and immediately understandable design is crucial to avoid adding additional driver distraction.