How to turn on crash detection for your Apple Watch

Apple Watch and iPhone crash detection

Setting up your watch’s SOS Emergency is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and any family member or friend that owns an Apple Watch or iPhone. 

Emergency SOS helps you get in immediate contact with 911 emergency services and shares your location with them. This feature also lets all your emergency contacts know your current location and that you’ve experienced an emergency. 

Plus, SOS even works when traveling to other countries for Cellular Apple Watches Series 5, SE, or Ultra!

And now, there’s a new SOS Emergency feature–crash detection for when you experience a severe crash where Airbags initiate when traveling in a vehicle.

So let’s learn more about this very important new feature on Apple Watch.

What is crash detection on Apple Watch?

Apple Watch Series 8 and above, Apple Watch SE (2nd Generation), and Apple Watch Ultra all offer a feature that can detect a severe car crash and even connect you to emergency services and notify your emergency contacts. Crash detection is also available on iPhone 14 models.

This crash detection feature uses either the watch’s cellular connection for Cellular watches with active plans or WiFi Calling from your paired iPhone for GPS-only watches or cellular watches without an active cellular plan.

How crash detection works on your Apple Watch Apple Watch detect a crash SOS Emergency

Crash Detection detects severe car crashes that usually deploy one or more airbags. This includes front-impact, side-impact, rear-end collisions, and even rollovers on vehicles such as sedans, pickup trucks, minivans, SUVs, and other automobiles.

This feature uses the watch’s 3-axis gyroscope, its g-force accelerometer, microphone, barometer, GPS, and Apple’s unique advanced sensor-fusion algorithm (collected from over 1 million hours of real-world driving and crash data) to detect if you’re in a severe crash. crash detection sensors on Apple Watch

What happens when your watch detects a crash?

When your Apple Watch detects a severe car crash, it chimes, then taps your wrist to get your attention and displays an alert on your watch’s screen for 10 seconds. 

During that 10 seconds, you can tap to call emergency services or you can press cancel to dismiss the alert. When you dismiss it, emergency services are not called.

If you did not respond within that 10 seconds, an additional 10-second countdown starts. If you do not dismiss the alert within that countdown, your watch calls emergency services automatically.Apple Watch crash detection alert countdown

Your watch can only call if it’s connected to a cellular network or WiFi calling.

If you cannot respond, your watch automatically plays an audio message on a loop with a 5-second break between each repetition for emergency services, letting them that you’ve been in a severe car crash. It also provides them with your exact location in latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates and an approximate search radius.

Your watch also turns on its microphone while the message loops so you can speak (if you are able to) to the emergency dispatcher as the audio message plays.

The audio message continues to repeat until you press the Stop Recorded Message button or emergency services ends the call.

If you already placed a call to emergency services following a crash and before your watch calls, this feature won’t override that call.

Once the emergency call ends, the watch sends a message to your emergency contacts and your Apple Watch displays a button that first responders can use to review your Medical ID (if you set it up.)

Your Medical ID helps emergency responders access crucial medical information such as allergies, health conditions, and other vital information.

Turn your Apple Watch’s Crash Detection on or off

The good news is that Crash Detection should be on by default. But it’s best to check just in case this feature is on!

  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Scroll down and tap SOS > Crash Detection, then turn on Call After Severe Crash.

If you don’t see it, remember that this feature only works on Apple Watch Series 8, SE (2nd generation,) and Ultra models.

Also, check that you agreed to share your location with your emergency contacts for Emergency SOS.

On your paired iPhone, tap Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > System Services, and make sure Emergency Calls & SOS is turned on. 

Check out this video to learn more about crash detection on iPhone 14+ and Apple Watch (Series 8+, Ultra, and SE 2nd gen+)

Emergency SOS Text via satellite for iPhone 14+

Another addition to the iPhone’s Emergency Services is satellite connectivity so you can get help if you are out of range of cellular and WiFi networks. 

It’s a new feature for iPhones that we love! And is a great add-on for those of us that go off the beaten path with wanderlust and adventure in our hearts!Emergency SOS via satellite Apple iPhone

There are some differences, however. In particular, due to the limited data speed of this satellite connection, you send short texts back and forth to an emergency services provider instead of talking to them.

These texts include information about your emergency situation, your location, your Medical ID (if available), and also how much battery remains on your iPhone. The emergency response team may also ask other questions over text.

Since satellites move, your iPhone may also direct you to move your location to maintain its connection.

This service starts in November for iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro using iOS 16.1. And, this satellite emergency service is free for all supported iPhones for two years. 
There is some confusion regarding the Apple Watch Ultra and satellite connectivity–at this time the satellite feature is available on iPhone 14 and 14 Pro models only, not the Apple Watch Ultra.
While the Ultra has improved GPS functionality with precision dual‑frequency L1 and L5 GPS, it does not offer satellite connectivity.


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A. Beth Whittenberger
I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. Additionally, I was a writer, content producer, and editor on the popular tech blog AppleToolBox. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives! Connect with me on LinkedIn!


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