Utah student finds way to fight distracted driving with handmade pouches

SOUTH JORDAN -- A South Jordan sixth grader has come up with a plan to help cut down on distracted driving through a creative science fair project, and those who took part in it found it to be effective.

Many people are guilty of reaching for their phone to take a call, answer a text or double check their navigation while behind the wheel.

11-year old Tyler Powell showed off simple patterned pockets with various designs at his family’s home Friday. The phrase "science project" might not come to mind when looking at them. Sewing project, maybe. But as Powell showed off Hello Kitty and basketball pouches, he was all about data and numbers.

"1.6 million crashes happen each year because of distracted driving. So I thought, this could be big," he said.

Powell, who attends Hawthorn Academy in West Jordan, discovered that startling statistic as he researched for a science fair project.

He created an experiment that involved asking dozens of his neighbors about their phone use while driving, and if they would put their phones away in a pouch while driving for a week.

Tyler sewed 70 pouches, and wrote out a hypothesis.

"If you put your phone in a pocket, it'll help reduce the amount of crashes that happen each year," he said.

Powell said 90 percent of his adult neighbors reported they've driven while distracted. 92 percent of the teens who participated, reported the same thing.

17-year old Tavo Estrada was one of the teens who took on the phone pouch challenge. He received a Star Wars-themed pocket to hold his phone.

Estrada said he doesn’t text while driving, but does use his phone to play music.

“I definitely got on it to change music a lot,” he said.

After a week of keeping his phone enclosed in the pocket while driving, he said that it deterred him from grabbing it to change songs.

“It was extremely rare that I would actually use the phone during that week,” he said.

As good scientists do, Tyler gathered data from Tavo and the others at the end of the week, by asking them to fill out a questionnaire.

He found that phone usage while driving decreased among both the adult and teenage groups.

In addition to decreased distracted driving, Tyler said 95 percent of adults and 87 percent of teenagers reported that the pockets made them more aware of how much and how often they use their phones while driving.

It’s that awareness that Tyler indicated could change driving habits, and potentially save lives.

“This could be life changing,” he said. “This could be very helpful in society.”

Even after the experiment ended, Tyler said some people—including Tavo—kept the pockets with plans to keep using them to prevent distracted driving.

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