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How the new Apple iPhone could help combat 'the new drunk driving'

The tech company unveiled a new feature last week that can block text message notifications on iPhones while a person is driving.

Distracted driving, which leaves drivers, pedestrians and cyclists at risk, is being called "the new drunk driving" by advocates.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Distracted driving, which leaves drivers, pedestrians and cyclists at risk, is being called "the new drunk driving" by advocates.

Apple wants distracted driving to stop.

The tech company unveiled a new feature last week that can block text message notifications on iPhones while a person is driving.

Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the phone’s technology senses when the vehicle is being driven, which activates a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. In this mode the phone’s screen appears black, and the driver won’t receive notifications until they arrive at their destination.

People who send texts will receive a message back that the driver can’t read them at the moment unless they get an additional message that says “urgent,” which bypasses the setting and turns notifications back on.

Distracted driving has become a significant issue for road safety. One person is injured every half hour in Ontario due to distracted driving and drivers are four times more likely to crash while using a phone, according to provincial data from 2013.

Road safety advocate and founder of Bike Law Canada Patrick Brown calls distracted driving “the new drunk driving” and welcomed the feature, calling it “fantastic.”

He’d also like to see things taken a step further.

“I think they should make it mandatory that phones not be operational in a vehicle. We have the technology, and it shouldn’t be a choice.”

Brown also said law enforcement should have additional powers to determine whether a cell phone was used while driving, because existing laws are very difficult to enforce otherwise.

If a person is a passenger in a car they can override the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature.

It will debut with iOS 11 in fall 2017.

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