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Study shows designated drivers are often not sober

A study of 1,100 bar patrons performed by researchers at the University of Florida showed that 65 percent of purported designated drivers (DD) had no alcohol in their systems. While this is an encouraging statistic, the research, which appeared in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, also showed that more than one-third of those who were supposed to abstain in order to drive their friends home safely had been drinking themselves. Almost half of the DD group had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) range of between 0.2 and 0.049, indicating their consumption of alcohol had been on the light side. However, 18 percent of the survey participants had a BAC of 0.05 or more-and the legal limit is 0.08.

Defining the designated driver

There are three main conditions to be met in appointing a designated driver: the DD must be named before drinking activities commence, he or she must abstain from drinking alcohol and, finally, the DD must act responsibly in driving the group home safely. When these conditions are in force, the designated driver program is found to be very effective. In fact, a study performed by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that people who were heavy drinkers used designated drivers more than any other group.

The issue of designated drivers who drink

If a designated driver is chosen once drinking activities are underway, it is very possible that he or she has already had a drink or two; the person who has consumed the least amount of alcohol is usually the one appointed to the task of driving the others home. As an example, perhaps the DD is a college student, a young man who recently turned 21. He is likely an inexperienced drinker who is not familiar with impairment levels and therefore overestimates his driving ability. Once he gets behind the wheel, he may find that his vision is somewhat blurry and his reflexes are not as sharp as they should be. In addition, he must deal with the distraction of inebriated passengers who may be loud and boisterous. These elements combined could be a recipe for disaster.

Choose well and stay safe

The first rule of thumb is to select your DD before anyone in the group has had a drink, not at the end of the evening when the DD is chosen by default. Give your car keys to the designated driver or to someone you trust not to drink who could drive you home if necessary. Remember to include the DD in the activities and conversation so that he or she does not feel left out of the fun. Remember, too, that if you do become involved in a traffic mishap following an evening of drinking, an attorney experienced with auto accident and personal injury cases is standing by to help.

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