Why you should use a driver distraction app

mounted smartphone in car next to hand on steering wheel

Jade Thrupp

Posted April 26, 2019

Limiting smartphone use while driving may save lives.

Driver distraction is a factor in around one in five road accidents in Victoria. Underestimating the impact of even a brief distraction while driving can be dangerous – TAC research indicates that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds while driving at 50kmh is the equivalent of travelling blind for 27 metres. Recent RACV research shows that limiting smartphone use may be one way to save lives. 

RACV manager of safety and education Elvira Lazar says while distraction comes in many forms – for example looking at a billboard or fiddling with the air-con controls – phone use is one distraction that can be easily addressed by using driver distraction apps or features that limit or disable your phone’s functionality while driving.

“It’s important to block as much as you can while driving, especially functions that take your attention away from the road,” says Elvira. “Phone use isn’t the biggest problem on our roads, but it’s one issue we can do something about.” 

According to a recent RACV study, younger drivers are particularly vulnerable to the distraction of the ‘black mirror’, and most likely to use their phone while driving, if not for texting then for music and GPS apps. 

There are several driver distraction apps or phone features available that restrict incoming and outgoing texts and calls, while still allowing the use of GPS and music functions. RACV research indicates that the most commonly used one is the ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature, which is inbuilt in iPhones. The next most popular is Android Auto, an app with up to 50 million installs. 

Elvira says while many people are happy to try out these apps and features, not enough stick with them. “If these apps are unreliable even 10 per cent of the time, then people are generally unwilling to persist.” 

She says it is important that drivers familiarise themselves with their chosen app before driving, so they are not put off. 

“The frustration users have with these apps may stem from a lack of awareness as to how they can work for drivers. There’s functionality that can differentiate between driver and passenger as well as options that allow people to contact you in an emergency. You just need to be familiar with the settings so it can be customised to your needs.” 

interior of car with person driving at sunset

Driver distraction apps can reduce the risk of injury on the road.

Popular driver distraction app features for iPhone

Do Not Disturb While Driving*

  • Inbuilt into iPhone
  • Can receive calls that are restricted to a few contacts
  • Silent notifications
  • Maps/navigation enabled
  • Music functionality.

* This is a feature that can be found in ‘Settings’ on iPhones with iOS 11 and later.

Check out the video below for a quick 24-second tutorial.

Popular features for driver distraction apps for Android

Android Auto

  • Free
  • Downloadable app
  • Make calls via Google Assistant
  • Texting available via Google Assistant 
  • Maps/navigation enabled
  • Music functionality

Check out the video below for a quick 19-second tutorial.