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Study: Designated Drivers Are Not Always Sober

Study: Designated Drivers Are Not Always Sober
Christian J. Amendt

These days, several options exist if you are looking to get home safely after a night of drinking. You can call a taxi or use a ride-share service, or you can elect someone to serve as your designated driver with the understanding that he or she will refrain from consuming alcohol so that the job can be done safely. A study covered by NBC News, however, suggests that many designated drivers are not maintaining a level of sobriety that allows them to drive without impairment.

Sobering statistics

The problem may be more widespread than initially thought, with about 40 percent of designated drivers admitting drinking to some extent even after taking on the title. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that nearly 20 percent of designated drivers surveyed had consumed enough alcohol to register a 0.05 percent blood-alcohol level, which is the level at which many law enforcement agencies feel drivers are impaired.

Study Details

To come up with these figures, researchers surveyed about 1,000 people who were exiting bars after a night out, asking them questions about whether they were the night’s designated driver and then testing them using breathalyzers. Breathalyzers are the same devices authorities use to assess intoxication after pulling someone over on suspicion of drunk driving.

Why designated drivers are often intoxicated

The results of the study raise important questions about how people are being named designated driver and why so many of these people are under the influence when the time comes to drive home. Some believe that the problem stems from revelers not selecting a designated driver before the night even begins, and instead choosing one at the end of the night by electing the person who appears to be the least intoxicated. Some people select designated drivers by choosing the person who has had the best luck at driving under the influence in the past, which is an equally dangerous method of choosing a solid candidate.

Choose a driver before heading out

Though there is only so much you can do if others do not take their role as designated driver seriously, there are steps you can take to ensure that you, too, are not contributing to the problem. Naming the designated driver long before you head out for the night is one way to hold that person accountable and minimize the chances he or she will consume alcohol over the course of the night. If you commonly go out with the same group of friends, you might also want to rotate the duty so that no one has to take on the task repeatedly.

If you find yourself involved in an accident and believe the person who caused it was drinking, you may consider getting in contact with a lawyer.