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Twin Cities nonprofit funding high school group's device to curb distracted driving

Eden Prairie students create rearview mirror device to curb distracted driving
Eden Prairie students create rearview mirror device to curb distracted driving 01:59

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It's an offense WCCO reports on often, because it's so common and so serious.

More than 3,000 people are killed each year in the United States because drivers are looking at their phones or something other than the road.

At a burgeoning backyard garden in Eden Prairie, Vijay Dixit explained recently how he planted flowers in the shape of a "S" in honor of Shreya, his daughter. 

Shreya was 19 when she was killed by distracted driving on her way home from Madison, Wisconsin. 

Dixit started a foundation dedicated to stopping distracted driving. A few months ago, some curious students at the Eden Prairie High School robotics club approached him with an idea.

When he heard it, he was flabbergasted. "I said, how do you do that?" Dixit said. 

Ronia Mukherjee is a junior at Eden Prairie High School and one of the leaders in the mission. She is also part of the school's Distracted Driving Club, founded in Shreya's honor. 

"If I was in her spot, I would only have three more years left," Mukherjee  said. "That's just so sad." 

So Mukherjee and her team put their hearts and heads to work. They came up with a device to help driver's keep focused on the road. 

The way the device works is that it's a camera attached to the rearview mirror, and the camera follows a driver's nose, so if they look away a buzzer will go off.

Yash Dagade, also a junior at Eden Prairie High School, is one of the leads on the design. He said the technology helps read the nose, but it also tracks the eyes for fatigue levels, recording how often drivers blink.

The device is taking off. Dixit's nonprofit is working to fund the project.

To the students, he says: "In each of you, I see Shereya, and that is true."

There are similar devices built into some new high-end cars. This would be a small, inexpensive version that can go on any car.

There is a team of 10 students working to make this happen. If you'd like to support Dixit's foundation, click here

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