Many Designated Drivers are Too Drunk to Drive
Monday, September 22, 2014
Whether by volunteer or vote, the practice of designating a driver before choosing to drink alcohol has become increasingly popular. It’s a great idea in theory, but recent studies show that the practice is far from perfect.
Over the course of six anonymous studies, researchers at the University of Florida tested the blood alcohol levels of 1,071 people returning home from bars in a restaurant and bar district. Of the 165 designated drivers with an average age of 28, 41% had clearly been drinking. 17% of all designated drivers had blood alcohol levels of .02 or below, but an alarming 18% had blood alcohol levels above .05 (Barry, Chaney, & Stellefson, 2013).
The legal blood alcohol limit in many states and provinces remains 0.08 (*the limit for Alberta drivers was changed to 0.05 in 2012), so many readers may not see the immediate issue. Indeed, the study confirmed that relatively few designated drivers exceeded that limit. However, the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a well-researched study illustrating the effects of blood alcohol at increasing levels, and the results are not comforting. It shows that many drivers with a blood alcohol level of .02 show some impairment, and that almost all drivers at or above .05 exhibit impaired judgment and reduced co-ordination (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2014). So, while most designated drivers may be adhering to legal requirements, they are still sacrificing safety. This is the rationale that has led to most Canadian provinces putting administrative laws in place that allow for license suspension for blood alcohol levels between. 05 and .08 (MADD Canada, 2014).
Although designated driving already saves countless lives each year, it's clearly time to increase education on exactly what sober driving entails.
Barry, Adam E., Chaney, Beth H., & Stellefson, Michael L. (2013). Breath Alcohol Concentrations of Designated Drivers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(4).
MADD Canada. (2014). Overview. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.madd.ca/madd2/en/impaired_driving/impaired_driving_bac.html
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2014). The ABCs of BAC. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.nhtsa.gov/links/sid/ABCsBACWeb/page2.htm