For motorists who are unable or unwilling to power off their phones while they are behind the wheel, a man from Sartell, Minn. has a new invention that might help curb the temptation to text and drive.
It's called the CellSlip, and the product makes its public debut on Wednesday when several of the bright red nylon sleeves lined with a conductive fabric that blocks radio frequencies from reaching cell phones placed inside it will be distributed to law enforcement and traffic safety officials attending a conference in Duluth.
The idea behind CellSlip is to eliminate the distractions drivers face when a phone rings or pings, said creator Mitch Bain.
“A lot of people are not getting in their car proactively wanting to use their cell phone, but when they get that message alert or Snapchat or Facebook message, that dopamine goes off and there is the urge to respond right away," Bain said. So he thought, "What if we can take out human error and just totally be disconnected?"
The easy solution, of course, is to simply turn the devices off, but Americans just can't seem to do that. More than 81 percent of cell phone users say that their phone is always on, according to pewinternet.org. The average cell phone user checks the phone 35 times a day by some estimates, and that includes while on the road.
Recent research from the AAA found that 70 percent of drivers report talking on a cell phone while driving. More than 42 percent of drivers admit to reading a text message or email while driving while nearly a third admit to typing or sending a text or email.
Bain had long known that nearly a quarter of all traffic crashes resulting in injury or death are attributed to distracted drivers, staggering numbers that became real last summer when his wife and three kids in the car were rear-ended by a driver who was on the phone as she sat at a traffic signal in St. Cloud.
They were not seriously hurt, but that’s when Bain, a software engineer and entrepreneur hobbyist, came up with the idea for CellSlip.
That is when " it was go time," he said "That accident could have been prevented."
Bain isn’t ready to bring his CellSlip to the ABC show "Shark Tank" just yet, but he does have the support of AAA, the Minnesota Safety Council and the Traffic Safety Foundation.
"We want it in every car so we are not tempted," said the safety council's traffic safety coordinator Lisa Kons. "Slip the phone in, it's slick and it works. It's one piece of information to get in vehicles to curb the idea of distracted driving and focus on the task of driving."
Emblazoned with the slogan "Slip It or Ticket," the device is another tool to remind drivers to fight off the urge to pick up their phone to see who is calling or texting, said Gail Weinholzer of AAA Minnesota-Iowa. "It enhances roadway safety for the driver of that vehicle and others on the road, so we are happy to promote it."
Once the phone is removed from the sleeve, all voicemails, text messages and app notifications pop up within seconds, Bain said.
CellSlip retails for $15, three for $30 or five for $45 and is available on the product's website.
Photo: Mitch Bain and his wife, Savanna