For motorists who are unable or unwilling to power off their phones while behind the wheel, a man from Sartell, Minn., has a new invention that might curb the temptation to text and drive.

It’s called CellSlip. The product made its public debut last month when it was distributed to law enforcement and traffic safety officials attending a conference in Duluth. It’s a bright red nylon sleeve lined with a conductive fabric that blocks radio frequencies from reaching cellphones placed inside.

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 cellphone, 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 is simply to turn the devices off, but Americans just can’t seem to do that. More than 81 percent of cellphone users say their phone is always on, according to pewinternet.org. The average cellphone user checks it 35 times a day by some estimates, including while on the road.

Recent research from AAA found that 70 percent of motorists report talking on a cellphone while driving. More than 42 percent admit to reading a text message or e-mail while driving and nearly a third admit to typing or sending an e-mail or text.

Bain had long known that nearly a quarter of all traffic crashes resulting in injury or death are attributed to distracted drivers. Those staggering numbers became real last summer when his wife, Savanna, and three kids in the car were rear-ended at a traffic signal in St. Cloud by a driver who was on the phone. They were not seriously hurt, but that’s when Bain, a software engineer and entrepreneur hobbyist, said, “It was go time. That accident could have been prevented.”

Bain isn’t ready to bring CellSlip to the ABC-TV show “Shark Tank” just yet, but he does have the backing 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. “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 phones 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 voice mails, text messages and app notifications pop up within seconds, Bain said.

CellSlip is an outgrowth of one of Bain’s past inventions that he admits “failed miserably.” In trying to fight cellphone addiction and get people at the dinner table to look at one another instead of their phones, he created Osombox (stands for Out of Sight, Out of Mind). The idea was to create a place to store phones during dinner.

“It really had no function other than for charging phones,” Bain said. Then his wife said, “What if you made something that saved a life? People would pay attention.” And Cell Slip was born.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.