Designated Drivers May be too Impaired to Drive

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Impaired Designated Drivers


When the weather warms up and more people are out on the town, it's not uncommon to see many Alberta bars filled to capacity with people enjoying a cold beer. Typically, those who drink responsibly are sure to call for a cab or have a friend who hasn't had an alcoholic beverage take them home if they have had too much.


However, based on a recent analysis performed by researchers from the University of Florida, designated drivers often have blood-alcohol levels that put them at risk for being involved in an accident that may require a car insurance claim.

Recently, UF assistant professor of health and education Adam Barry, along with a team of researchers, surveyed about 1,000 patrons at a sports bar in the downtown portion of Gainesville, Florida. Asking respondents a multitude of questions, they confined their scientific analysis to individuals who had been appointed to be the designated driver. Of these motorists who had consumed alcohol, 50 percent of them recorded blood-alcohol levels at or above 0.05 percent.

While the legal blood alcohol limit may be 0.08 both in the U.S. and in Canada, lawmakers have floated the possibility of lowering the rate to 0.05 to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver intoxication.

Barry indicated that oftentimes, people who assume the role of designated driver don't avoid drinking - they just don't have as much to drink as other people in their group of friends.

In May, the U.S.-based National Transportation Safety Board made recommendations for states to adopt a new blood-alcohol content threshold of 0.05. In 1980, the American Medical Association made this suggestion as well, Barry noted.

While Canada law may be similar to the U.S., in that it's against the law for adults 21 years of age and older to drive with a blood-alcohol content level above 0.08, the penalties that can result from them are some of the strictest in the world, according to the Canada Safety Council.

For example, along with Germany, Canadian law has the longest maximum prison sentence for drunk driving offenders at five years. In America, though, the maximum is two years.

In addition, at $1,000, Canada has one of the most expensive mandatory minimum fines in the industrialized world.

Nine provinces inflict suspensions on motorists with BAC levels above 0.05

Thereare even some penalties that result if motorists drive and have a blood-alcohol content of 0.05. The CSC points out that of the 13 provinces and territories, nine impose driver's license suspensions as well.

"Blood alcohol laws are hard to compare internationally because there are so many factors," said Jack Smith, CSC president. "Looking at how Canada stacks up, we are tougher on drinking drivers than most of the countries in the study."

John Helis, who authored a similar study done in 2009, noted that there appears to be an international trend moving toward imposing "administrative sanctions" on individuals who are driving and have blood-alcohol levels of 0.05.

Driving under the influence of alcohol can result in potential Alberta car insurance implications for negligent policyholders, perhaps resulting in higher rates after being convicted of DUI or a plan being dropped entirely. Much of this depends on the nature of the offense and whether the motorist is a repeat offender.

Recently, the Canadian Center on Substance Abused produced a report called "Levels and patterns of Alcohol Use in Canada." It was the first of three, the two others detailing beverage alcohol sales across the country and the third describing what policies are in place to reduce the negative effects that can result from drinking to excess.