The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 90 percent of Americans who go to social events where drinking occurs believe that a designated driver should be used. When done correctly, designated driver programs can help communities greatly reduce the number of drunk driving accidents and fatalities they experience. The programs also send an important message about planning ahead and ensuring that everyone gets home safe after drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, a recent study indicates that the programs may not be operating as they should.
University of Florida researchers asked people leaving area bars if they had chosen a designated driver. If they had, the team asked if the driver would submit to a breathalyzer test. The group found 165 people who labeled themselves as designated drivers. Of those, 35 percent had consumed alcohol at the bar in question.
The NHTSA identifies designated drivers as people who either refrain from drinking alcohol or who arrange for safe rides home for the members of a group. It specifically states that designated drivers are "not the person who's the most sober." This message of abstaining from drinking in order to make sure everyone gets home safe may have been lost since the programs first became popular in the early 1990s.
The Florida study indicated that social pressure to drink and the current blood alcohol limit of .08 are the most likely culprits for why designated drivers are drinking. When choosing a designated driver, it should be clear to you and to the person who is chosen that being a designated driver means abstaining from any alcohol consumption.
Source: Fox News, "Nearly 40 percent of designated drivers drink before driving, study suggests," 10 June 2013