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New iPhone Safety Feature Triggers Deluge of Accidental 911 Emergency Calls At Bonnaroo Festival

The feature, designed to automatically alert emergency services in the event of a crash, malfunctioned at the music event.
Image Source: Twitter | Manchester Police (TN)
Image Source: Twitter | Manchester Police (TN)

A new crash detection feature added to Apple's iPhone unexpectedly created chaos at Bonnaroo, one of the largest music festivals in Tennessee. The feature, designed to automatically alert emergency services in the event of its user being in a crash, malfunctioned and triggered numerous accidental calls to 911 on June 15, the opening day of the festival.

Local police in Manchester took to social media to inform festival-goers about the issue and advised them to disable the feature until the festival concluded, according to New York Post.


In a Facebook post, the Manchester Police Department (MPD) acknowledged the unintended 911 calls, informing that they were triggered by the "Crash Detection Mode" on iPhones. Apple implemented this feature with the intention of swiftly providing aid during severe car accidents. When a crash is detected by an iPhone, it prompts an alert and initiates an emergency call after a 20-second countdown, unless the user cancels it.

In cases where the user is unresponsive, the phone plays an audio message for emergency services and shares the phone's coordinates with an approximate search radius.

In response to the situation, both the MPD and Bonnaroo organizers asked the attendees to disable the feature to avoid further accidental calls. The organizers shared a tweet urging everyone to work together to resolve the issue and provided simple steps to deactivate the "Crash Detection Mode" through the iPhone settings. By accessing "Settings>Emergency SOS," users could disable the feature and prevent any more false emergency calls.

Image Source: Pexels/ Tomasz Kulesa
Image Source: Pexels/ Tomasz Kulesa

The Festival Concluded Smoothly

Fortunately, despite the influx of accidental calls, there were no reported crashes during the four-day festival. Attendees enjoyed performances by renowned acts such as Foo Fighters, Paramore, Korn, Knocked Loose, and AFI without any major incidents. The swift response from both the police and the festival organizers ensured that the situation did not escalate and that attendees could continue to enjoy the event safely.

Previous Incidents with the Feature

This incident at Bonnaroo is not the first instance of the iPhone's 'Crash Detection Mode' causing unintentional 911 calls. In January, when the feature was newly rolled out, it reportedly caused accidental automated calls from fallen skiers' and snowboarders' phones and watches, which subsequently overwhelmed 911 centers near ski mountains and created additional challenges for emergency services, potentially diverting resources from genuine emergencies.

Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

Lessons Learned

While the 'Crash Detection Mode' is intended to enhance user safety, incidents like the one at Bonnaroo highlight the need for users to be aware of its potential pitfalls. Apple may need to address the issue by fine-tuning the feature's sensitivity or incorporating additional safeguards to prevent false alarms. Additionally, users should familiarize themselves with their devices' emergency features and take proactive steps to disable or modify them as necessary, especially in high-intensity environments like music festivals or outdoor activities.

Moving Forward

As technology continues to advance, it is essential for both manufacturers and users to prioritize safety and usability. Features that involve emergency services should undergo thorough testing to minimize the risk of false alarms or unintended consequences. In turn, users should stay informed about their devices' functionalities and take appropriate measures to prevent accidental calls that may place an unnecessary burden on emergency responders.