For years, safety advocates and law enforcement officials have emphasized the need for at least one person to serve as a designated driver and abstain from drinking alcohol in order to drive their friends home safely after a night (or day) out on the town.
While having a completely sober designated driver sounds great in theory, a new study conducted by the University of Florida claims that in practice the reality may be far different.
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, finds that more than one in three designated drivers still drink and then drive. While a driver can still legally get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below 0.08, impairment for some can begin with a BAC as low as 0.02.
Researchers surveyed 1,000 Gainesville bar patrons over a three-month period. They asked those patrons if they had been tapped as the designated driver. If the patron said yes, researchers would ask permission to administer a breathalyzer test.
They found that 35 percent of the 165 participants who said they were designated drivers had consumed at least one drink. While half of the designated drivers registered a BAC of between 0.02 and 0.05, the other half registered above 0.05. The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that states lower the drunk driving BAC threshold from 0.08 to 0.05.