by Cori Hilsgen
How many drivers feel the urge to answer their cellular phone when they hear it ring or ping while they are driving, even though they know it will distract them?
If you are one of the many drivers who are tempted by their cell phones, than Sartell resident Mitch Bain might have a solution to help you focus more on the road.
Bain has designed a product that can help decrease distracted driving. The bright red CELLslip pouch blocks all incoming and outgoing cell signals when a cell phone is inside of the product.
Because many cell-phone users have a difficult time not answering text messages, mobile software application notifications, telephone calls and more when they receive them, the physical barrier between the user and the phone the CELLslip provides can help decrease the urge to continuously check a cell phone.
By blocking the signals, the CELLslip helps decrease user anxiety of the cell phone when it is out of sight. The bright color of the product is also a visual reminder of the dangers of distracted driving.
When a phone is removed from the CELLslip, text messages, voicemails and more will reappear in seconds.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, distracted or inattentive driving factors into one in four crashes and results in at least 70 deaths each year.
According to the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, six out of 10 teen crashes involve some type of distracted driving, including using cell phones, talking with other passengers, looking at something in the vehicle, looking at something outside the vehicle, singing or dancing to music, grooming and reaching for objects.
Even after drivers put down their phones or stop using other distracted behaviors, there is a lag time of an average of 27 seconds before drivers are fully engaged with driving again.
Bain first began working with cell-phone usage addiction two years ago when he invented a product called OSOMbox, a storage device which was designed to decrease cell-phone addiction in homes. Hoping to encourage families to spend more time interacting without using their cell phones, he said the product was not very successful.
Through his work, Bain said he realized many people recognize cell-phone usage in their homes can be addictive but are also reluctant to change their habits.
While he was working on the OSOMbox, his wife, Savanna, mentioned to him that if it saved a life, people would listen better.
That prompted Bain to start doing more research about distracted-driving statistics.
“We have an epidemic that the majority of America is participating in, and there really wasn’t a solution outside of 50 mobile apps,” Bain said. “The problem with apps is they break, they are usually only for one operating system and it’s very easy to get distracted turning them on, but those distractions don’t stop the person from putting their car in drive.”
Bain then designed the prototype for the CELLslip, found a manufacturer that had access to the conductive fabric which blocks the cell phone signals and began making his prototypes.
In July, when Bain was about six months into creating the CELLslip, something happened to motivate him to get the product to the public even faster. His wife and their three youngest children were in an accident, hit by a distracted driver. The other driver hit them at the Division Street and Hwy. 15 intersection when the light for the distracted driver was red.
Fortunately, his children were all in three-point-harness child car seats and were not injured in the accident.
“The moment brought an emotion and passion to the project I hadn’t had before, and I knew I had to get the product live,” Bain said.
The Bains want the CELLslip in the hands of as many drivers as possible and believe it will help save lives.
Mitch said he had begun the process of developing the CELLslip at the end of his not-so-successful OSOMbox, but because he was somewhat burned out, he waited six months before he started on the CELLslip project. It took him about one-and-a-half years from the original idea to market the product.
The product was launched at the “Towards Zero Death” conference held Nov. 16-17 in Duluth, in partnership with the American Automobile Association. The AAA logo was printed on the CELLslip, which was distributed as a promotional gift, while Mitch and Savanna answered questions at the conference.
“To say they were a hit would be an understatement,” Bain said. “We had leaders in the traffic-safety industry coming by the booth and standing in line to get multiple CELLslips. In just two weeks, we sold over 10,000 CELLslips and have been in talks with other large companies and safety organizations.”
He said they have partnered with the Minnesota Safety Council and also have been contacted by other businesses across the country who are interested in partnering with them.
“(The year) 2017 is looking very positive toward our mission to decrease distracted driving,” he said.
Mitch and Savanna are the parents of four children – Lochlan, Carter, Emirsyn and Weston. The two met when they were attending St. Cloud State University. Savanna, who grew up in Sartell, has an early-childhood education degree, and Mitch has degrees in advertising and public relations, and a minor in information media. He currently works as the director of sales for Tarmac.io, which specializes in software engineering (building mobile and web apps for startup and Fortune 500 companies).
Bain is working on a second product with the help of the Minnesota State Patrol but cannot discuss specifics yet because they are only in the prototype stage of the project.
The Bains own their business – Emcasa West, LLC.
The CELLslip can be personally customized with business logos and can be purchased at www.CELLslip.com. The cost of the product is one for $15, three for $30 or five for $45.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.