Sober Steering Wheel Could Save Lives

By Kelly Burch 02/26/19

“My goal is for Sober Touch to go global and save lives all around the world,” said the device's creator Lakesha Stines.

woman holding a steering wheel

Lakesha Stines was a child when a close family friend who was nine months pregnant was killed by a drunk driver. 

“I was only 10 years old when it happened,” Stines told the New Haven Register. “This had a great impact on my life to see her and her baby lying in that casket at such a young age.”

Decades later, Stines, now 42, has invented a product that she hopes will spare other families the same tragedy—the “Sober Touch Sensoring” steering wheel, which can detect alcohol in a person’s sweat. 

According to Stines, the product will prevent drunk driving. When a person touches the wheel, the sensors read whether there is alcohol present in their sweat. The car will not start if a driver has alcohol levels that are over the legal limit. 

"When you get in your car and you touch those sensors after drinking, it’s going to calculate your blood alcohol level through the perspiration in the palms of your hands,” Stines told WTNH News 8. 

Stines has high hopes for the product. “My goal is for Sober Touch to go global and save lives all around the world.”

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), about 30 people are killed each day by drunk drivers. Bob Garguilo, executive director of MADD in Connecticut, where Stines lives, says that the steering wheel could help reduce that number. 

He said, “A device requiring a driver to prove they are sober before their car will start will save lives.”

It could be an important tool for advancing toward MADD’s ultimate mission of eliminating deaths caused by drunk driving. “MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving was created so that one day there will be no more victims,” Garguilo said. 

Stines says that the steering wheel will cost as little as $400, and could be available to be in cars by the end of the year. It’s not clear whether she envisions it in all cars or used by people who have previously been caught driving drunk—some of whom are required by court mandate to have a breathalyzer installed in their vehicles. 

Stines has received recognition from local elected officials and also people in the industry who can help her bring the steering wheel to fruition. 

She said, “People have been taking me to the next level—taking me to where I need to be because they believe in what I’m doing.”

Most importantly, she feels that her dear family friend is looking out for the project. 

"I know she’s so excited in spirit about what I’m doing and I know she’s smiling, I know she’s like, 'Go get ‘em.'"

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.