Designated drivers still drinking and getting behind the wheel

To reduce the number of drunk driving car accidents, safety campaigns urged people to have a designated driver when they had too much to drink. Having a designated driver is supposed to help everyone get home safely but a new report found that designated drivers may not be so safe after all.

A new study found that 41 percent of designated drivers drank alcohol even though they were supposed to stay sober and drive home. In addition, almost 20 percent of designated drivers had drank enough alcohol to be considered impaired.

For the study, the University of Florida tested the blood alcohol content levels of people leaving bars on a Saturday night. Of the 165 people who said they were designated drivers, 41 percent had drank alcohol that night. Through their testing they found that 17 percent of the designated drivers had a BAC level of .02 or below while 18 percent had a BAC level of .05 or higher.

While a .05 BAC level is still under the legal limit in North Carolina, new studies have shown that having any amount of alcohol in a driver's system impacts his or her ability to drive safely, which is why the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states lower their drunk driving limit to reduce drunk driving car accidents.

Why are so many designated drivers still drinking alcohol, sometimes enough to become inebriated? The researchers suggested that it could be due to individuals viewing the duties of a designated driver differently from safety organizations. While safety groups believe designated drivers should abstain from any alcohol consumption, many people think it is okay for designated drivers to drink as long as their blood alcohol level is lower than the legal limit.

The researchers concluded that safety groups may need to re-educate and raise awareness to what is expected of a designated driver and to highlight the risks of having just a drink or two before getting behind the wheel.

Source: NPR, "Designated Drivers Often Fail To Abstain From Drinking," Nancy Shute, June 10, 2013

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