In 2014, 32,675 fatalities resulted from motor vehicle crashes – and distracted driving was to blame for 10% of them, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In response to the widespread problem, State Auto is teaming up with a simple invention that may lower the incidence of distracted driving-related accidents.

The new product, Drop Stop, seals off the space between the driver’s seat and the front console, eliminating the source of a common driving distraction: searching for cell phones, CDs, keys and more when they fall under a seat.

Marc Newburger developed the idea for Drop Stop when he was awaiting an important phone call behind the wheel.  The phone rang, vibrated – and promptly fell into the gap between the center console and the driver’s seat.  As Newburger bent down to search for his phone, he lost control of his vehicle and almost hit a pedestrian and a utility pole.

Around 10 years later, with help from co-investor Jeffrey Simon, Newburger has sold about 3 million Drop Stops. The pair got its big break as contestants on CNBC’s “Shark Tank” when Lori Greiner helped them launch their product.

Drop Stop’s main retail channel is Wal-Mart, but Newburger and Simon always had big plans for the auto insurance industry.  Mike LaRocco, CEO of State Auto, saw potential in the product – and purchased 5,000 Drop Stop units for his company’s insureds as a proactive way to reduce distracted driving.

“Our challenge has become more difficult as the industry continues to suffer from an increase in severity across the auto lines,” LaRocco explains.  “In some cases, frequency is starting to increase as well. We have identified changes in loss costs and are confident that a key driver is the rapid increase in distracted drivers.”

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