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Setting up your Windows Phone Driving Mode

Driving Mode was introduced by Microsoft in Windows Phone 8.0 Update 3 a few months ago. It carries over into Windows Phone 8.1 update, and it remains one of the few truly unique features of Microsoft's platform. Heck, it even showed up on NBC Today.

The Windows Phone Driving Mode is designed to automatically start when you connect to a Bluetooth device and it can be set to ignore calls and text messages. In a nutshell, the Driving Mode removes aspects of your Windows Phone that may cause a distraction while you are cruising down the road. It can even auto-respond via text message to tell people you're driving - now that's smart!

Setting up your Windows Phone Driving Mode is simple and it all starts from your Windows Phone 8.x Settings menu.

Positioned towards the bottom of your Settings menu, nestled between your Sync My Settings and Quiet Hours settings, you will find the Driving Mode settings. If you have not set up the Driving Mode, your Windows Phone will walk you through a set-up wizard.

Your options include:

  • Ignoring phone calls
  • Ignoring text messages
  • Setting up automatic replies to calls and text messages
  • Add/Remove a Bluetooth device (needed to trigger Driving Mode)

You also have the ability to pin Driving Mode to your Start Screen for easy access. Once you have set up Driving Mode, you can always fine-tune things as the need arises from the summary page that is generated from the set-up wizard. 

Driving Mode will automatically start up when it sees the connection established with the Bluetooth devices you added during the set-up wizard.

Driving Mode can come in handy for anyone who needs help ignoring phone calls and text messages that may be distracting or for those who forget to connect to their Bluetooth device. The one downside about Driving Mode is that it requires Bluetooth to trigger and work, meaning your car must be of the newer variety where such a feature is now standard.

If you are taking advantage of the Windows Phone 8.x Drive Mode, let us know how it is going in the comments below.

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • Lol this isn't exclusive to WP. Moto X and other Android phones (through apps) have been able to do this and much more for quite some time. And they don't even require Bluetooth, some like Moto X have sensors to detect that kind of stuff.
  • Moto X != Android OS. A feature on type of phone is not the same as having this feature on every Windows Phone baked in.
  • (crickets* crickets*)
  • Hey, did you see that Apple just submitted a patent for their version of this... Crazy!
  • Funny how the addition of one work, like "lol", gives a much different aspect to a comment. Did you really laugh out loud when you read the article? Most likely not. Granted the info provided is relevant and true, the lol puts people in a defensive mode.
  • So, it requires an app that is always running in the background? How much battery does that kill? There is a reason why android phones are generally considered to have poor battery life. Having this feature baked into the os makes it more efficient.
  • My iPhone brethren asked me to set this up on his phone after seeing my auto reply. I was surprised that iOS didn't have the feature. This is the first time I have seen windows phone envy.
  • Be Nice if cortana could use driving mode for geofencing. i.e. Remind me when i start driving to...... or remind me when i get to the car.....
  • That'd be neat indeed.
  • Awesome Idea
  • I agree. Remind me on the way home, not when I get home.
  • You can tell Cortana "Remkndme when I leave work (or whatever location you have setup) to _______. She's not just limited when you GET somewhere but also when you LEAVE somewhere. I've done this and it works well.
  • Thank you for this. I wondered if this would work.
  • I wish you could manually activate it instead of having to connect it to a Bluetooth device.
  • Agree, I don't have the Bluetooth accessories for my car holder.
  • Should be easy to add a feature allowing it to be activated via NFC tag.  There's a similar feature on the Nokia Car app. Also, I'm hoping this will integrate with Cortana. Certainly a logical next step.
  • I agree. I don't have a Bluetooth device so this feature is absolutely useless to me. I can imagine most people getting low cost phones are in the same boat. As far as I'm concerned, Android still kicks WP8.1's ass in Driving Mode
  • NFC tag?
  • A Tag that you can set to open/di specific function (link, open app, etc, just like a barcodes) if tapped with a NFC enabled devices... Usually can be bought in some places..
  • So it's not about driving with a GPS app ?
  • That would be nice wouldn't it...but no. You have to have a Bluetooth device to even set it up and activate it. It isn't connected to either GPS driving apps or the GPS itself (I.e., moving faster than 25mph)
  • Unless GPS happens to have Bluetooth connectivity with your phone :)
  • :) I need one of those! I really like the new Garmin with a HUD. Does that have bluetooth?
  • I use this feature and love it, especially the auto reply to SMS. I wish they would extend this beyond Bluetooth to include NFC. I have Bluetooth connectivity in one of my cars, but CR-200 units in both. I'd really love to trigger Car Mode when connected to those.
  • If you buy a Garmin head up display it will work when it sees that as well. The Bluetooth works strangely with my car, when a txt comes in without driving mode on it makes the car think its in a call for a few seconds.
  • I don't see how to set it up as a quick setting in the action center. Not on my list.
  • Correct, it's not. Fixed, thanks.
  • Driving mode isn't one of the options for action center quick setting.
  • I wish you could make it launch an app like Nokia Car App when it activated.
  • Yup. I would probably use it more often
  • Another Awesome Idea, Forgot this : If you use Nokia Car App, Try Car Dash I find it more useful has better access to music and contacts as well
  • Yes a very basic idea, anyone that uses their phone a lot in the car would think of this. Besides Microsoft people, must be because they are using iPhones!
  • It would be nicer if it had the option to disable the PIN lock while it's connected to your car.
  • +1520, I love disableable options!
  • And to stop the screen from turning off too, I'd plugged into power.
  • I don't have Bluetooth in my car, so this is unusable. I'd love to be able to set custom states to trigger drive mode, such as plugged in + audio jack plugged in.
  • Activate quiet hours
  • Something like AT&Ts It Can Wait App would be nice. Android and Apple have this w/o needing Bluetooth
  • It infuriates me that it requires Bluetooth to work. As I don't have a Bluetooth headset, I don't use my phone while driving but I'd love to be able to turn on Driving Mode so my phone can auto-reply to texts with a message saying that I'm currently driving and unable to reply at the moment. If I had a Bluetooth headset I'd be more likely to use it to interact with my phone while driving, somewhat negating the need for Driving Mode.
  • Quiet hours... That should do the same
  • +920, even having a bluetooth headset, the option to enable it when not connected to bluetooth is more appealing to me. I'd much rather have the device ignore texts and calls without bluetooth, because the last thing people need to be doing is picking up their phone to see texts/calls in a car. At least with bluetooth the visual component is less compromised (but attention still wanes), and so it makes much more sense to have driving mode a tap away when one forgets to bring their bluetooth device. Even when not driving, if I have driving mode enable itself whenever it's connected to my only bluetooth device, then it will ignore phone calls and texts when I'm doing something like cooking, or cleaning, or otherwise utilizing both hands. Not particularly useful there, and I'd end up enabling driving mode manually whenever I got into a car anyway.
  • Agree Alec. I think it shouldn't even be called driving mode. Ignore mode would be better. We should be able to enable it whenever we want. I don't want my calls to go to my answering service at certain times. There are times I would prefer to send callers a text to say I'll get back to them. Why should I have to be driving to choose this function?
  • +920. Wp8.1 still doesn't have a useful driving mode app. No Bluetooth? Worse than a feature phone BC now you get extra alerts. It should activate manually by GPS otherwise its as dumb as my old phone.
  • Question.
    Isn't the point of using Bluetooth to become hands free, thus supposedly being safer? Why connect to Bluetooth only to turn off the features you bought the Bluetooth for? I must be missing something. If your goal is to ignore your phone when driving, you probably wouldn't have a Bluetooth device. You could also just turn on airplane mode. Granted, you wouldn't have text replies. Or now, with 8.1, you could use Quiet Hours. Still, why use this if you bought a Bluetooth?
  • Because with cars not from the last century you have a bluetooth device and it can go into driving mode the second you sit in the car.
  • I think you're missing Squatting Hen's point, which is less about activating Driving Mode and more about the utility of Driving Mode.  Also, you don't have to go back all that far to find lots and lots of cars that lack integrated bluetooth.  
  • My though as well. With Bluetooth, I can listen to my texts and speak them back. Same for calls. No need to ignore them.
  • Seriously.  Is this how most people "use" their device while driving?  This seems like a version of Quiet Hours.  If they just allowed you to trigger Quiet Hours via specific bluetooth devices or NFC tags and then let you specifiy 'ignore' or 'autoreply' for phone call, email, messaging you'd have this covered. When I heard rumors of a "Driving" mode, I assumed it would be more like a "hands-free" mode so you can actually use your device with minimal fuss while driving.  That would be awesome. Let me activate through NFC/Bluetooth, a Tile or Action Center and then it's pretty much hands-free and voice-only from there.  Messages, phone calls, emails (if you want that), Music, Maps, Navigation, etc. all routed through Cortana. The current "Car" apps require on-screen controls to switch tasks, which partly defeats the purpose.  Sure, they may have larger buttons or simplified interfaces, but you're still reaching over and tapping; and in some cases, you need to long-press the back button to switch tasks/apps (which is not always safe at high speed).  Cortana should just handle all of this stuff.
  • So true, if Microsoft or Nokia are listening I bet they are working on this. The feature although has a few advantages has a lot of Room for Improvement
  • It could replace an NFC tag and start music and Navigation automatically. Cant do more than a single task in nfc which is pretty annoying
  • Maybe the ability to pin it to start screen happened with 8.1, but you can't with 8.0...
  • This still only turns off sms and calls. What about other things that catch your attention, whatsapp, facebook etc? I personally wouldn't turn off calls as has been pointed out I can talk hands free, but no point in turning off sms only for other messaging apps to still be able to distract my attention
  • All app notifications are turned off by default in car mode
  • I love WP but driving mode is simply STUPID, I mean Bluetooth devices are made to help you use your phone hands free. PERIOD. when I don't feel like answering a message (or ever look at it for that matter) I just don't do it. I drive, hear a call or message, ignore it, stop my car, take care of business,easy right? Even easier with a car with Bluetooth built in Or a Bluetooth earset. AM I THE ONLY ONE AROUND HERE WHI THINKS THIS IS NONE SENSE?
  • Yes, because you can disable all notifions, but can also exclude phone calls and text messages. It's brilliantly simple. At least when you have BT. I have even 2x BT in my car. 1 disabled of course. Only very old cars don't have BT. It's also built in the OS. With separate BT volume. All effortlessly. 100% reliable. I love it.
  • My Phone... "I have turned driving mode on for you" My Boy... "Thank you Tom Tom"  
  • Works great on my Ford Fusion.
  • I tried this, but it doesn't integrate with Inner Circle. There are certain contacts that I ALWAYS want to be able to reach me no matter what. If it would be integrated with Inner Circle, that would be AWESOME!!! Instead, I setup Quiet Hours for my commute times so people would get a response and my Inner Circle could still contact me.
  • I want to have the auto reply different for the different Bluetooth devices I have. One for car, one for jaybirds
  • there is also nokia car app...
  • Try Car Dash has a few more funtions and easy access to music and contacts as well. Use it all the time
  • I've used driving mode since it was released, nearly everyday. I love it. I also stream music from my phone to my car stereo. The only thing I miss is the voice "I have enabled driving mode for you" lol seems to be removed in 8.1 :(
  • I use driving mode to prevent interruption while listening to Podcasts and Audible. I do miss being able to interact with texts via voice from time to time, but man when someone would get on a tear sending text message it would seriously interrupt my listening enjoyment. Driving mode fixes that. Plus the Audible app sucks and would typically crash if I received more than 2-3 text messages during a session. Also, some studies have indicated that even hand-free use of phones still leaves your driving impaired. The cognitive load of an active conversation is higher than passive listening to audio. Some studies say closer to holding a phone and drunk driving.  
  • I don't have bluetooth, can I use infrared?
  • i simply dont get the driving app, i bought a Parrot BT system and added it to the car to become handsfree and safe if using the phone, it is the law in the UK, then an app emerges that gives the option of not answering ?? i like all things Nokia but this app is odd and from my useage point completely pointless Remove it from the Os and put it in the store and replace it with Wifi geofencing... much more usefull
  • It disables app notifications with out you doing anything. So even if you show calls and texts or is safer.
  • Nice feature but I would rather take advantage of the built in hands free text messaging feature while I am driving.
  • Why does it have to be Bluetooth have to be on to use it
  • Since updating to 8.1 when driving mode activates it no longer says "I've started driving mode."  Not a huge deal but it is a change that I'm curious if anyone else has noticed.
  • Yes it's gone.
  • Actually it no longer functions like it used to before 8.1, it isn't even speaking the text messages. Tried all the settings. You're are absolutely correct about the "I've started driving mode for you" but now it no longer starts automatically most annoying. I keep getting the message, "looks like you're driving..."  I don't want to press anything when I get in the car. Frankly it's ruined!
  • Should have merged with quiet hours; like SMS groups should have merged with family rooms.
  • I've been using Driving mode (sense :P) But it kills all sounds from my phone. Like if I want to ask Cortana a question, then there is no sound from her.. If I turn off driving mode, then I hear the phone interaction via the built in car audio (I can do voice commands and it talks back).
    Does anyone know how to fix it without turning off the driving mode?
  • I might suggest that you can always buy an auxilary Bluetooth device. I use one of these in my Civic. Works like a charm. I would recommend a filter though which acts as a buffer between the aux connection and the bluetooth receiver so you don't get any static.   This is what I have, works great.
  • One note, the Mic is kind of shitty on this. Get lots of complaints from people I am attempting to talk to. lulz. But for music and such, it's great.
  • I use driving mode regularly. I would use the auto-reply feature if only it had the option to reply only to people in my contact list. It's a security risk to reply to strangers, especially SMS spammers. Also, for the same reason, those in the "call+SMS filter" list should never get an auto-reply.
  • Agree
  • I'm a hardcore Android guy but I truly love my Lumia 1020 now that I have 8.1. I have been using the 1020 as my daily driver and I have put down my N5. I love the Driving Mode!!! My only issue with WP 8.1 is that when playing music in my 2012 Civic I am not able to have the song displayed which is very annoying. My old iPhone and N5 both do this and it's great. Does anyone know why I can't have my music show the tracks on my display? It's clearly a WP issue.
  • I've been using this feature since I got my Lumina 925. I’m currently running the developers preview. The one thing that I miss though is the audio notification I would get when I turn on my car. Before, when I started the car  the Lumina connect to the Bluetooth and I would an audio message through the sound system in my car that said “I’ve turned on driving mode for you “ and my phone would vibrate when it connected. Now neither one of those happens since the update, but I do get the notification on the phone asking it I want to start driving mode.  Anyone know if they are bring back these features when the actual release comes out?
  • To be truely useful the driving mode needs to be able to automatically launch an app (i.e. the Nokia Driving App) upon bluetooth connection.
  • I'm missing the wp8 version. Cuz connect and said you are in drive mode with voice. But in wp8.1 that voice options isn't include of I don't hear nothing when my phone connect to Bluetooth
  • There should be a way to turn this on in a car that is not Bluetoooth enabled, such as my 1990 Miata. I have to bring a Bluetooth speaker with me in the car in order to use this. I should be able to activate it manually.
  • Driving Mode in WP 8 Update 3 is great: it hides notification except optionally from SMS and it hides the icons on the lock screen. The upside of all this is that when you glance at your phone while driving, it doesn't look like anything needs your attention so you don't go digging for it while you're at a red light or whatever. Live Tiles still update so if you're expecting something, you can still peek beneath the lock screen to see if it's still active. The whole point is to get you to use your phone LESS while driving and it does that for me.
  • I miss the verbal notification when this engages driving mode! There are times when I'm waiting on my kids to call and need to be reachable and other times when I'd rather not be reached. Θ_Θ Anyone know if we can toggle this on the notifications bar?
  • I have been using this since it first came, although I didn't ignore calls and text, because I don't want to miss calls from work. I answer calls through loud speaker in my car. I also let my car read the message for me and reply through dictating message. But since Cortana came, my phone don't tell me "I have turned on driving mode for you" anymore. It just automatically connects.
  • They need to remove the bluetooth restriction and detect when I'm driving.
  • Pioneer and others have some pretty good and fairly affordable aftermarket car stereos with Bluetooth built-in. I have one installed in my 2000 Honda Accord and my brother's '98 Toyota Camry. For driving mode I only have it disabling notifications which is useful and pretty slick for me.
  • A wireless charging dock with NFC that would auto enable driving mode and switch Cortana to 'listen' so you can just say her name to activate her. you know you all want it
  • I don't use this feature while driving, I use an earpiece, but when listening to music at home while sitting on the deck reading Star Wars: The Old Republic or while I'm in the shower. Pointless for me while driving, but still useful for me.
  • There are instances where I can imagine this to be a useful feature but equally there are many instances where I would not want to auto-respond to calls/SMS with a text message. What would make Driving Mode far more useful, I think, would be some means to filter/select contacts and set preferences for responses. In the meantime, I will probably stick with just having text messages announced via bluetooth headset and then DIY filter whether to read or ignore.
  • To be fair, Android does have a "Car Mode" integrated into the OS:   The big difference in WP is, that it actually works great out-of-the-box! The android "equivalent" just launches some designated app (if even setup correctly) which I have yet to see it do properly. You would additionally need to setup some kind of trigger to activate it yourself (on bluetooth connect, nfc tag, car hardware, ...) - what a mess! :D
  • I actually use this more with my Bluetooth portable speaker than the Bluetooth in my car. With windows 8.0 there was no native way to easily & completely ignore calls and texts when connected to a Bluetooth speaker, and I didn't want my phone ringing over the speaker (at work) or my texts read over the speaker. Made this Bluetooth speaker a driving mode connection, and dont have to worry. Even altered the auto response text to include my work number so people that needed to get ahold of me could.
  • For the ones who don't understand having a Bluetooth capable device in your car but not using it for calls/texts by using driving mode, Driving mode is for people who use their device as a music player in the car but don't want the distraction of phone calls or texts. This is how I use it. Though I would like it to honor the breakthrough setting of quiet hours as there are some calls/text that can't be afforded to wait.
  • I've been using it for a few days, but I had to disable the auto-respond w/Text feature, unfortunately, and here's why. I receive text notifications for certain Twitter users when they Tweet, and what happens is, Driving Mode auto replies to THAT text and Tweets for me!  Yikes.  Also, I get text notifications from Amazon / ESPN, etc. and there's no need to reply to those. Hopefully they will enable a way to exclude certain senders from auto-respond - but even then, sometimes the Amazon texts come from different phone "numbers", so that wouldn't work.  This is definitely an issue and until there's a solution, especially the Tweeting one, I can't use Auto-Respond.
  • I like the feature. I block texts but answer calls. Used it with WP8 and now with the preview. I also wear a BT stereo headset. With WP8 I think my phone would switch into driving mode even if it didn't connect to my cars BT. With the 8.1 preview it won't switch into diving mode if connected to my headset while starting my car.
  • Y u need blue tooth??
  • I don't know if it's just me, but this seems like completely the wrong way round. I have 2 cars, a Honda with BT inbuilt and a BMW without. When driving the Honda I can answer calls using the steering wheel controls and use the car's microphone and speakers. I can answer texts purely by voice, so I don't need to decline/autoreply when in the car which has BT.
    In the BMW on the other hand, I can't answer the calls/texts because I have no BT, so this is EXACTLY when I want to turn driving mode on in order to let people know I'm driving, can't answer now and will get back to them later.
    The way it works, so set driving mode on automatically when I can answer, and to not allow me to set driving mode on even manually when I can't makes the whole feature seem uttelry pointless.
    Can someone tell me what use it is in its current form?
  • But even worse, my Lumia 630 does not connect automatically to my windows mobile carkit. And I'd connected it switches on and off. That is dangerous.
  • I don't like it and want to permanently disable that function.  How to do that? Can't find anything in settings. Please help.