When a person agrees to be a designated driver, what are they agreeing to? Are they agreeing to refrain from drinking in order to provide a safe ride home? Are they agreeing to refrain from getting drunk? Are they agreeing to arrange for a safe ride home for the people who are drinking? The understanding of what a designated driver is and what he or she is supposed to do may not be as clear as some believe. A study appearing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs concluded that a surprising number of designated drivers may be consuming alcohol before driving home. The result could be a deadly car accident.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, alcohol-related crashes kill nearly 10,000 people every year. The group recently recommended that states lower the acceptable blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05. At that level, roughly 20 percent of the people involved in the designated driver study would be considered impaired. Nearly 40 percent of the designated drivers identified in the study had consumed some amount of alcohol.
One person involved with the study recommended that designated drivers should refrain from drinking any alcohol. He cited the challenges inherent in transporting groups of people who have been drinking. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration likewise suggests that designated drivers avoid drinking any alcohol.
Serving as a designated driver is a positive act that can prevent injuries or deaths in drunk driving accidents. Before agreeing to serve in this capacity, you need to be willing to ensure safe rides home for your group by abstaining.
Source: CBS News, "Study: One-fifth of designated drivers impaired behind wheel," by Michelle Castillo, 10 June 2013