Apple's Crash Detection saves another life: mine

in Apple Watch

Of all the new products I've reviewed across 15 years of writing for AppleInsider, Apple Watch has certainly has made the most impact to me personally. A couple weeks ago it literally saved my life.

Apple's Crash Detection can and has saved lives
Apple's Crash Detection can and has saved lives

I'm not the first person to be saved by paramedics alerted by an emergency call initiated by Crash Detection. There have also been complaints of emergency workers inconvenienced by false alert calls related to events including roller coasters, where the user didn't cancel the emergency call in time.

But I literally have some skin in the game with this new feature because Crash Detection called in an emergency response for me as I was unconscious and bleeding on the sidewalk, alone and late at night. According to calls it made, I was picked up and on my way to an emergency room within half an hour.

Because my accident occurred in a potentially dangerous and somewhat secluded area, I would likely have bled to death if the call hadn't been automatically placed.

Not just for car crashes

Apple created the feature to watch for evidence of a "severe car crash," using data from its devices' gyroscopes and accelerometers, along with other sensors and analysis that determines that a crash has occured and that a vehicle operator might be disabled or unable to call for help themselves.

More than five hours later I was shocked how much blood was on the back of my ER mattress--and later, how much I saw on the sidewalk!

In my case, there was no car involved. Instead, I had checked out a rental scooter intending to make a quick trip back to where I'd parked my car.

But after just a couple blocks, my trip was sidelined by a crash. I was knocked unconscious on the side of a bridge crossing over a freeway.

A deep gash above my eye was bleeding heavily. I began losing a lot of blood.

I didn't regain consciousness for another five hours, leaving me at the mercy of my technology and the health workers Crash Detection was able to contact on my behalf.

Crash Detection working as intended

Even though I wasn't driving a conventional vehicle, Crash Detection determined that I had been involved in a serious accident and that I wasn't responding. Within 20 seconds, it called emergency services with my location. Within thirty minutes I was loaded in an ambulance and on the way to the emergency room.

When I came to, I had to ask what was happening. That's the first I found out that I was getting my eyebrow stitched up and had various scrapes across the half of my face that I had apparently used to a break my fall. I couldn't remember anything.

Even later after reviewing the circumstances, I had no relocation of an accident occurring. When visiting the scene of the crash, I could only see the aftermath. Blood was everywhere, but there was not enough there to piece together what exactly had happened.

The experience was a scary reminder of how quickly things can happen and how helpless we are in certain circumstances. Having wearable technology watching over us and providing an extra layer of protection and emergency response is certainly one of the best features we can have in a dangerous world.

Almost always, I find myself in the position of making difficult decisions and figuring out how to get out of predicaments. But in the rare occasions where I've been knocked out which has only happened a few times in my entire life, there's a more difficult realization that I'd be completely powerless in the face of whatever problems might occur.

With the amount of blood that I was losing, I couldn't have laid there very long before I would have died. Loss of consciousness and blood is a bad combination for threatening brain damage, too.

I am grateful that I'm living in the current future where we have trusted mobile devices that volunteer to jump in to save us if we are knocked out.

Who would opt-in to Crash Detection

Last year, Apple's introduction of Crash Detection on iPhone 14 models, Apple Watch Series 8, and Apple Watch Ultra, was derided by some who worried that the volume of false alerts would be a bigger problem than the few extra lives that might be saved by such a tool.

There were false alerts noted at ski lifts, roller coasters, and by other emergency responders who noted an uptick in calls detailing an incident where the person involved didn't respond to explain it wasn't actually an emergency.

Several observers insisted at the time that the Crash Detection system should be "opt-in," similar to the Fall Detection feature Apple had introduced on Apple Watch to report less dramatic accidents suffered by people over 55.

However, it's impossible to have the system only ever working when it is essential. In my situation, I wouldn't have thought to turn on a system to watch me ride a scooter a few blocks. I probably would have assumed that a scooter ride was less risky than driving, despite having no seatbelt, no airbag and no other protective gear.

So I'm also particularly glad Apple doesn't restrict Crash Detection only to car accidents!

My Apple Watch still works but was scratched up pretty well

The fact that my watch and phone had been monitoring me for over a year without incident before a situation occurred where they literally could spring into action to save me is based entirely upon the idea that they are working in the background, not something I'd need to assume I needed. That's the right assumption to make. It literally saved me.

Crash Detection is a primary example of a new, innovative iOS feature update that adds tremendous value to the products I already use, without any real thinking on my part. It just works. And more importantly, it saved my life when it did.

Exercise your Emergency Contacts

Despite having an iPhone that's set up with a European phone number and home address, Crash Detection "just worked" here in the United States. It dialed the right number for the location where I crashed, and getting me help efficiently and quickly. That's great.

However, I realized after I woke up that I had two emergency contacts that should also have been notified. My phone did its job correctly, but in both cases I'd listed both my partner and a family member with old phone numbers they don't still use. That meant that Crash Detection had called the police for me, but wasn't able to notify my designated emergency contacts.

If you haven't taken a recent look at your emergency contact data, now might be a good time to check to make sure that everything is in order. Note that when you update a phone number, it doesn't necessarily "correct" your defined emergency contacts.

You may need to delete and reestablish your desired emergency contact and their phone number, as the system only calls the specific contact number you've supplied. It doesn't run through your contact trying each number you've ever entered for that person.

In my case, there was another Apple service that jumped in to help. Because I was sharing my location with iCloud, it was easy for my partner in another time zone, far away, to find out where I had been taken by using the Find My app, and then to call the hospital to find out my condition.

But if Crash Detection hadn't been working, I may not have survived-- or things could have ended up much worse: badly injured or even mugged while laying unconscious in a sketchy area in the middle of the night.

I'm not the only AppleInsider staffer whose life was saved by the Apple Watch, and I probably won't be the last. So thanks, Apple!

Read on AppleInsider



  • Reply 1 of 38
    I’m glad that your okay and made it though!
    dewmekiltedgreenStrangeDaysBart Ywatto_cobraFileMakerFellerronnbala1234
  • Reply 2 of 38
    This built in emergency system is why I upgraded my watch and iPhone "just in case" when it became available. 

    Very pleased this chap was saved by a technology that is so new but extremely wonderful when needed,
    edited November 2023 dewmebyronlBart Ywatto_cobraronn
  • Reply 3 of 38
    I’m sorry glad you’re okay Daniel and hop you make a speedy recovery. I’ve enjoyed many of your stories over the years!
  • Reply 4 of 38
    XedXed Posts: 2,481member
    I seem to recall that DED got into a motorcycle crash years ago before writing for AI.
  • Reply 5 of 38
    p-dogp-dog Posts: 131member
    Daniel, I hope you fully recover quickly. I am assuming that this wasn't in Berlin. The outlets look like it was in the US. 
  • Reply 6 of 38
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,526member
    Good to hear things worked out well and I hope there is no scarring. Here's to a speedy recovery and getting back to normal life ASAP!

    Alex1NBart YFileMakerFellermuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 38
    Thanks to Apple Watch and Health app, I was notified that I had entered a state of atrial fibrillation. A quick visit to the doctor confirmed it and I had a cardioversion done a few days later.
    Alex1NBart Ywatto_cobraronn
  • Reply 8 of 38
    eideardeideard Posts: 428member
    After reading this article, first thing I did was check my watch to see where I might add relevant notes.  Especially, contacting my wife.  Apple, of course, has already taken care of that!

    Alex1NBart Ywatto_cobraronn
  • Reply 9 of 38
    byronlbyronl Posts: 351member
    Glad you're okay, wish you a speedy recovery!
    Bart Ywatto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 10 of 38
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,296member
    if anyone needed any proof regarding the usefulness of the crash detection feature, you are Exhibit A.
    Alex1NBart Ywatto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 11 of 38
    Daniel I wish you a speedy recovery and healing. This sounds like a very scary experience, I’m happy you’re able to come back to AI and keep us enlightened with the less important, than health, tech news. 
    kiltedgreenAlex1NBart Ywatto_cobraFileMakerFellerronn
  • Reply 12 of 38

    He went above & beyond to review this feature 😮‍💨

    Glad you're okay & hope you recovery well! 🫶
  • Reply 13 of 38
    Hoping for a speedy and whole recovery for you, Daniel. 
  • Reply 14 of 38
    mac voyermac voyer Posts: 1,294member
    Holy Sh!t! I'm so glad you made it and I am reminded of all those who don't in similar circumstances. A year and a half ago, I was hit by a van. I don't think I had crash detection on at the time but I was in the middle of Manhattan and surround by people. I am stopping to make sure crash detection is on for me and my wife right now. Thanks for sharing your story with us. 
    Alex1NBart Ywatto_cobrasidricthevikinggregoriusmFileMakerFellerronn
  • Reply 15 of 38
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,229member
    Daniel, I’m very glad to hear that you’re on the path to recovery and that your faith in Apple’s technology was so well rewarded. Thanks for adding a truly personal touch to another of the many “Crash Detection saves lives” features AI runs. I think it will really help people re-evaluate … and check their emergency contacts while they’re at it.
    Alex1NApplejacsBart Ywatto_cobragregoriusmFileMakerFellerbloggerblogronn
  • Reply 16 of 38
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,941member
    Glad you’re ok and the tech worked as intended. 

    I remember buying the first Apple Watch, wondering what yet to be dreamt up features would be added to that or future versions of the device, as the unimaginative prattled on about how nobody wore watches any more, and why would anyone want to spend that much on a glorified Fitbit. 

    Now we have crash detection, fall detection, an ECG, a blood-oxygen monitor, sleep monitor, and a wrist-worn phone with GPS. These are all things that can save your life, keep you healthier, and provide safety, security and emergency contact for loved ones, all in a device that many initially insisted was a useless vanity item.  It’s remarkable when you think about it. 
    dewmeAlex1NApplejacsBart Ywatto_cobraFileMakerFellerronnradarthekath4y3s
  • Reply 17 of 38
    Speedy recovery. From my personal motorcycle creative riding, you will discover even more places that hurt over the next few days. Fortunately you were within a cell tower's range. I carried "SPOT" back in the day that could communicate with SARSat, but I would have to be conscious to activate it. The automatic feature was a life saver for you.
    Alex1NBart Ywatto_cobraronnradarthekat
  • Reply 18 of 38
    Speedy recovery! Well done for posting your unfortunate and frightening experience. 

    A couple of points: if you look at the safety statistics you will find that driving a car is very much safer than any 2 wheeled device in terms of risk per mile, especially if you wear a seatbelt. The real problem is head injury which is what you got. You can even just about kill yourself by running into a wall so an electric scooter is plenty fast enough. 

    As well as the hugely antisocial aspect of rental escooters, (Paris has just banned them as a failed and dangerous experiment) the lack of a helmet provision is frankly immoral- would you rent a car without seatbelts? One point on the crash detection: it seems very oversensitive. I find it triggers remarkably often- even a slightly mis-hit tennis stroke will trigger it and skiing can definitely trigger it when you have not fallen. A great idea but not quite there yet.
  • Reply 19 of 38

    Glad your okay, but after reading this:

    "I probably would have assumed that a scooter ride was less risky than driving, despite having no seatbelt, no airbag and no other protective gear."

    Is it safe to assume that you weren't wearing a helmet and likely traveling at a good pace to be knocked unconscious? That doesn't seem very smart to me. Will you wear a helmet next time?

  • Reply 20 of 38
    I’m also very thankful for fall detection in my watch. Oh, it works very well! 
    While attending a volleyball tournament that was very entertaining my exuberant  applauding set off the countdown that I felt and cancelled just in time. 
    After that experience, about a year later, I had just left an appointment and was walking to the stairwell to leave the building. While negotiating a perfectly flat linoleum covered concrete floor I failed to lift my foot high enough causing the rubber sole of my right shoe to leave a 9” rubber smear as I plummeted face first onto the floor. I was able to just barely get my “murse” in front of my chest to break my fall as my nose just ever-so-lightly grazed the surface. My watch started counting down as I’m laying there thinking how stupid this must have looked to anyone watching, but the next thought I had was that I needed to respond to the watch and cancel the call to the emergency responder's. Once again with just about 2 seconds to spare I was lucky to cancel the call.
    So, YES, I count myself as someone that has benefited from this APPLE technology, it’s a comfort knowing I have it.
    Bart Ywatto_cobraronnradarthekat
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