LECOMPTON, Kan. (WDAF) — After his vehicle flipped, a Topeka man was pulled from an early Wednesday wreck after his cell phone automatically called 911 following the crash.
The auto-call, dependent on crash detection features in new iPhones, was the first of its kind in Douglas County, but it’s becoming more common across the country.
Apple revealed their crash detection iPhone feature around this time last year. Law enforcement officers in some areas are still getting used to it. For example, members of law enforcement have shared stories of the feature getting triggered by a roller coaster or even skiing.
But during this recent wreck, it’s possible that it made a real difference in the rescue.
This expanse of western Douglas County — south of Turnpike’s Topeka Service Area — is an area where cars pass through during the day but not as much at night.
When WDAF-TV visited on Thursday, the tire tracks were still visible where a 20-year-old Topeka man ran off East 50 Road, cut through the brush, careened off a dirt ramp and flew over North 1700 Road.
On the opposite side of the road — about 25 yards into the woods — passersby can see pieces of this vehicle left over from that night’s wreck.
“We respond to crashes that have been there for hours before, and you just hope that it’s not a serious accident,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Capt. Josh Kellerman said.
In this case, however, there was no downtime because of the crash detection feature on the man’s iPhone.
This situation is not unique. Recently, in a canal near Indiantown, Florida, authorities found a wrecked driver in the water. Responders were notified by the phone capability that not everyone knows about.
“I just looked at my phone, and it was defaulted on. I did not know it was there either,” Kellerman said.
“You may not have somebody drive by you if you’ve been in an accident for 15-20 minutes or maybe even an hour. So even in a county as busy as we are, there are times that this is going to be so useful and helpful,” Kellerman said.
But there are hiccups. A recent post from the Lee’s Summit Police Department offered guidance on how to turn the service off after their city saw an uptick in 911 misdials.
But the message in Douglas County is to be aware.
“I think it’s one of those things that’s good to know what’s on your phone — what its capabilities are. Just like we say with your child, with your kids: What can your phone do that you don’t know?” Kellerman said.
Dispatchers are trained to follow up by making a call to the phone they got the alert from, trying to see what the situation is. With no response, authorities are sent to respond, Kellerman said.