A typical teenager’s mind is often occupied with a number of things. For some it’s taking a good selfie and for others it’s having a lot of followers on Instagram. For one teenager, T.J Evarts, it was the question of how to save people’s lives on the road.
Evarts, now 20, is the teenage inventor of the SMARTWheel — a device that alerts drivers when they are distracted while driving. At the young age of 14, he began working on solving the problem of drivers losing focus behind the wheel.
Since then, Evarts has met President Obama, who tested out his invention at the White House, and been invited to present his idea on popular ABC TV show “Shark Tank.” The young inventor also made a guest appearance with his anti-texting and driving booth at the Consumer Electronics Show that took place this past week in Las Vegas.
The SMARTWheel is designed to minimize distractions such as texting, eating and applying makeup. It easily installs in a matter of minutes after being snapped onto a steering wheel.
The gadget uses patented sensing technology to alert drivers with lights and buzzes when they take either one hand or both hands off the wheel. In addition, SMARTWheel also comes with a free smartphone app that tracks trip data so that users are able to monitor and improve their own driving behavior.
Evarts, who is a native of Londonderry, New Hampshire, told MTV News when his idea began:
“It kind of started when my friends were learning to drive and I was seeing some of that behavior from new, inexperienced drivers and I thought, ‘there must be a solution out there.’
“Five-hundred thousand people are injured every year by distracted driving and all I found were recording devices or ones that tell you how fast you were going when you hit that tree. I set out to alert drivers to a dangerous situation before it happens.”
Evarts began working on his idea six years ago with his two sisters. In 2013, at the age of 16, he decided to commit full time when “Shark Tank” invited them to appear on the show. He said:
“My sisters and I were competing in science competitions and at some point an executive producer on ‘Shark Tank’ called and that was the moment when I changed my mind set and realized it was a great tool for saving lives and making some money.”
The young inventor and entrepreneur expects his product to be available for purchase on his site within the next few months. SMARTWheel, which will be sold for $199 each, will include a reward system and offer incentives such as free MP3s and gas cards for users.
Evarts, who has been competitively skiing since he was 6-years-old, has been accepted to every college he has applied to. However, he will defer his studies to pursue his dreams. He said:
“I figured SMARTWheel is here for a reason so I need to go for it. It’s definitely a trade-off, but all my friends want to work for me now and this will save lives, so there’s no better opportunity in life to explore it.”