By Connie Morrison
A former Eastern Shore resident, now living in Connecticut, has invented a device that prevents drunk driving by measuring blood alcohol content on drivers’ hands.
“My sensors will calculate your alcohol level through the perspiration of the palm of your hands, and if your alcohol level is above the state requirement, your vehicle will not start,” said inventor Lakesha Stines.
According to data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Accomack County had 51 alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2018, with one fatality and 23 injuries. Northampton saw 24 alcohol related crashes, with one fatality and 11 injuries. Multi-year data compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found more than a third of crashes in Accomack are alcohol-related and a quarter of those in Northampton involve alcohol. Statewide, about a third of crashes are alcohol related.
For four years, Stine ushered her idea, Sober Touch Sensoring, up the invention ladder: getting the idea on paper, finding technical people to make the models and simulations, and engaging professionals for the production and manufacturing, sales, and marketing.
“I am past the prototype stage. My engineer Bill McLaughlin did an awesome job building my prototype and model and getting me to the production and manufacturing stages.” she said.
McLaughlin said it wasn’t so much the product as its designer that made him want to sign on. “I’ve done things of this potential scale before for others, but Lakesha’s drive and passion are what led me to seeing this through to our current state,” he said.
“My motivation behind working with Lakesha is seeing her dreams come to fruition,” McLaughlin continued. “I know when that first product hits a vehicle, that’s one potential life saved, and Lakesha has done her job.”
Each unit is expected to cost around $400 and Stines said she is in negotiations with several auto companies — she declined name them — to lease the technology. She hopes to have them installed in vehicles by the end of 2019.
“I see this product as an opportunity to save lives, and keep honest people honest,” said McLaughlin. “When you’re drinking, you aren’t thinking clearly, but having this device embedded in your vehicle will help stop a potentially deadly mistake.”
Stines’ work is gaining attention of lawmakers. She was recognized Feb. 3 by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) “in honor of your extraordinary innovative, entrepreneurial work to address drunk driving in our communities.”
Stines has a vision beyond saving lives. She wants to use her Sober Vision foundation to help send to college children who have lost family members to drunken driving.
“And then I’m going to continue on with my next life-saving invention,” she said.