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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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SMARTwheel: Safe Driving at your Fingertips

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Tackling distracted driving has been a matter of national debate for years with teens the most likely to text and talk, among other distractions – eating, drinking, applying make-up, fidgeting with the radio – while behind the wheel. Groups are continuously raising awareness with new laws, initiatives, or products. On June 17, we posted “When Laws Don’t Stop Texting, Who “Ya Gonna Call?” with a solution known as Textbuster. In our quest for putting an end to distracted driving, here is another solution, the SMARTwheel™.

What began as a project to compete in the First Lego League Competition, has been gaining momentum and may someday save lives. Six homeschooled teens, ages 9 – 17, on a mission to stop texting while driving, invented a prototype of the SMARTwheel™, acronym for Safe Motorist Alert for Restricting Texting, a device that aims to create a warning system for drivers when their hands come off the steering wheel.

Last night was a re-airing of their pitch on Shark Tank, a show where inventors and entrepreneurs pitch their product and service ideas to a panel of investors. The teens explained that most distractions require drivers to take one or both hands off the wheel for an extended period of time. They defined unsafe hand position in three ways: no hands on the wheel; one hand off the wheel for too long; or two hands next to each other, which is a common texting position. The SMARTwheel™ provides instant feedback to drivers through audio and visual alerts in an attempt to stop distracted driving as it happens. The SMARTwheel™ logs unsafe driving occurrences and can send data to parents as an added incentive to drive safely.

These young inventors, who call themselves the Inventioneers, previously pitched the SmartWheel to a group at MIT and tested the product with MIT’s driving simulator. Ninety percent of participants said the SMARTwheel™ would be effective at changing drivers’ texting behavior. The kids also shared with the “Sharks” that President Obama has put his seal of approval on the SmartWheel and wants one for his daughters when they are old enough to drive. The group also visited Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who wrote about it on his Fast Lane blog.

Although many states have texting while driving laws, police say it is difficult to enforce especially because many drivers will move the phone to their lap; they are doing more to conceal phone usage while driving. In most cases, drivers are pulled over for some other offense, such as crossing the center line or speeding. Many agree that it is time to change driver behavior, but do you think the SMARTwheel™ is a viable solution? Would you buy one?

The Inventioneers successfully landed a deal with two “sharks” and plan to have SMARTwheel™ ready for sale by the end of 2013.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.