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How trustworthy are designated drivers?

Naming a designated driver (DD) to see you and your friends home safely after a spirited night out sounds like an excellent idea. Obviously, your appointee should be someone who agrees not to drink alcohol at the party, game, wedding reception or other event where beer, wine or liquor is going to be served. However, research conducted by college professors revealed that some study participants who identified themselves as designated drivers did, in fact, imbibe while other participants were found to be legally drunk.

Results of the study

The researchers spoke with 1,100 bar patrons in a small college town, most of whom were college-aged males. Of these, 165 said they were serving as designated drivers and agreed to take blood alcohol tests. Sixty-five percent of the participants had no alcohol in their systems, and 17 percent had a small level of between 0.02 and 0.049. However, 18 percent showed a level of 0.05 or more, and the legal limit is 0.08. While the study, which appeared in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, had limitations that kept it from being definitive, it clearly showed that some designated drivers were drinking when they should have been abstaining.

Signs of impairment

One thing to take into consideration is that alcohol tolerance varies. One person may not appear to be affected by having one glass of wine while someone else may feel dizzy and giddy after drinking only half a glass. Someone whose blood alcohol level is lower than 0.08 can be arrested for drunk driving if he or she shows signs of impairment. In fact, some experts believe that a driver with a BAC level of 0.05 is significantly impaired.

Dealing with unruly passengers and more

Even a small amount of alcohol can slow the reflexes a person depends on for steering and braking, especially in emergency situations. It may also blur the vision, which is especially problematic after dark. Add to this the possibility of loud music and unruly passengers for whom the designated driver is responsible, and you have competing factors that make driving difficult.

Designated drivers can be a danger

Another study, this one by Harvard, shows that heavy or problem drinkers use designated drivers the most often. Over the years, drivers who agree not to drink so they can see others home safely have saved thousands of lives. A mistake is often made, however, in that a designated driver is often named not before an event begins but while it is in full swing. In this instance, the person who has had the least to drink is often the one tapped for the job, which is cause for concern. An unsuspecting motorist may become the victim of an accident caused by a DD who only had a drink or two and thought driving would be no problem. If you happen to be one of those unfortunate victims, an attorney experienced with cases involving DUI and personal injury is standing by to help.

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