Texting while driving was listed as the number one case of death among U.S. teens back in 2013. A recent Pew Research study said that 40% of all American teens claim to have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
This sounds like an epidemic — and perhaps it's one that technology can cure. T.J. Evarts, a 20-year-old inventor, has come up with a novel solution that could easily put texting drivers on notice.
It's called Smart Wheel, and it is designed to fit over the steering wheel of most standard vehicles — tracking whether or not the driver has two hands on the wheel at all times.
When teens learn to drive, they are careful to place both hands on the wheel at the traditional "10" and "2" positions (as in 10 o' clock and 2 o' clock). But as soon as they get their driver's license, they start driving with one hand on the wheel and, often, the other on their cellphone.
Evert's invention tracks when drivers hold the wheel with one hand and will warns them with a light and a buzzing sound. When they place both hands back on the wheel the light turns back to green and the buzzing stops. It also watches for what's called "adjacent hands," where both hands are close together near the top of the wheel so the driver can both thumb type and drive at the same time.
Smart Wheel slides over any standard steering wheel and tracks how you hold it when you drive.
All the data the Smart Wheel collects is also sent to a connected app, so any parents who install the Smart Wheel can keep track of the teen's driving habits. If they try to remove or tamper with the cover, that's reported as well.
Evarts told us he was inspired to create the Smart Cover by watching his own friend's driving habits and realizing there was nothing out there to help them.
This isn't his first invention, but it is the first one he's seen become an actual product. Evarts is now the CEO of his own company.
The all-leather Smart Wheel should come out later this year and retail for $199.