Dancers at Bonnaroo Music Festival Triggered Spurious iPhone Crash Detection Reports

Bonnaroo music festival Credit: Shawn Mariani / Wikipedia
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Emergency responders in Tennessee saw a dramatic rise in emergency calls last week from attendees at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival resulting from flaws in the iPhone 14’s Crash Detection feature. More than 80,000 people attended the popular music festival, which ran from June 14 to June 18 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Scott LeDuc, Director of the Coffee County 911 Communication Center, told WKRN that the emergency services received more than five times the usual number of false 911 calls during the festival. Officials believe the Crash Detection feature of the iPhone 14 was the cause for the increase in false reports, with festival-goers likely triggering the feature while dancing during the live performances.

The iPhone’s Crash Detection feature is designed to detect a severe car crash, sending an alert to emergency responders if the owner of the iPhone does not respond. Crash Detection is enabled by default on supported iPhone and Apple Watch models. This currently includes the iPhone 14 lineup, Apple Watch Series 8, and Apple Watch Ultra, but it will likely also continue to be a feature on future iPhone and Apple Watch devices.

Officials were able to cut the number of false reports in half by sending an alert to devices in the concert festival’s area advising attendees to deactivate Crash Detection on their iPhones. “It reduced the amount of calls that we were getting,” said LeDuc.

“Our employees really stepped up, as first responders always do really step up in the line of duty and they did,” LeDuc said. “And we didn’t have any situation where we couldn’t help someone because of the amount of calls.”

Officials also contacted Apple, which offered to send employees to the county to assist. However, the problem was able to be diagnosed over the phone.

There have been several reports of false emergency calls by the iPhone’s Crash Detection feature since its debut last fall. The devices have automatically called 911 emergency personnel after users engaged in various activities such as skiing, and riding rollercoasters and snowmobiles. Now dancing will be added to the list.

This isn’t the first time law enforcement officials have asked iPhone 14 users to disable crash detection. In February, the number of false reports from skiers prompted the Canadian Mounties to issue an official bulletin advising anyone planning a ski trip with an iPhone 14 in British Columbia to disable the feature after teams spend an undue amount of time looking for car crashes that didn’t exist.

However, despite these false reports, the iPhone’s Crash Detection feature has also rightly alerted responders in several life-threatening situations, getting help for those unable to reach their iPhone to make an emergency call.

In January, an iPhone 14 notified emergency responders in the wake of an early morning auto accident in Tasmania that saw a four-wheel drive vehicle pulling a horse trailer crash into a tree stump during the wee hours of the morning.

Once Crash Detection alerted the police, they were able to arrive on the scene within eight minutes to find that all of the passengers were unconscious. Five people were taken to the hospital, and one victim had serious injuries, requiring transportation to Melbourne via air ambulance.

While the iPhone apparently makes the largest number of false emergency calls, Android devices have also been known to make false calls in similar situations.

In its Crash Detection support document, Apple advises users to stay on the line until a responder answers if an accidental call takes place, as it allows users to explain that assistance is not actually required.

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