Thousands Could Die From Deadly Designated Driver Discovery
In a new article soon to be published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers from the University of Florida report that too often the designated driver after a party or event has actually did some drinking of his or her own with blood alcohol levels high enough to impair their driving.
According to Drunk Driving Prevention.com, choosing a designated driver following an event where drinking has occurred is perhaps one of the most important and successful measures toward preventing drunk driving-related fatalities. They state that every day, almost 30 people in the United States are fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident that involved a drunk driver, and that nearly 50,000 people owe their lives yearly to designated drivers.
Unfortunately however, the concept of “designated driver” is not necessarily adhered to in its strictest sense of being someone who has completely abstained from drinking before driving. According to a press release issued by the University of Florida, the designated driver may merely be someone who is the least drunk among a group of companions.
"If you look at how people choose their designated drivers, oftentimes they're chosen by who is least drunk or who has successfully driven intoxicated in the past―successful, meaning got home in one piece...that's disconcerting," stated Adam Barry, an assistant professor of health education and behavior at the University of Florida and co-author of the study.
In the study, researchers sought out volunteers emerging from bars on six separate Friday nights between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. who were agreeable to a brief interview and having their alcohol levels tested with a hand-held breath/alcohol analyzer.
The researchers collected their data from 1,071 party-goers who were of an average age of 28 and primarily a white male college student. Among those interviewed and tested were 165 designated drivers.
What the researchers found was that:
• Non-driving participants had significantly higher levels than the designated drivers
• Thirty-five percent of the designated drivers had been drinking
• Of the 35% designated drivers that had been drinking, 17% had blood-alcohol levels between .02 and .049 percent and 18% tested at blood alcohol levels of .05 percent or higher
According to the press release, the study does not identify why such a high number of designated drivers drink, but states that it could he due to group dynamics; not designating a driver ahead of time, but after the drinking has already began; or, a mistaken belief that one or two drinks is not enough to impair one’s driving skills—so-called “Buzz driving.”
"That's the insidious nature of alcohol―when you feel buzzed, you're drunk," says Adam Barry.
In fact, many who drink are well aware of the current blood alcohol limit of 0.08% and above that can lead to an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). However, what is less know is that in many states there is a “per se” criterion that can result in a DUI even if a driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.08%. A “per se” violation can be invoked if you have been drinking and have a BAC below 0.08%, but in the arresting officer’s judgment the driver shows signs of impairment. In other words, feeling buzzed is a good self-indication that you are “per se” impaired.
The researchers’ findings and a movement to possibly lower the BAC to 0.05% in the U.S. may necessitate a change in alcohol education. For now though, party-goers should stick with the life-saving concept of using a designated driver, but insure that one is chosen before the partying begins and insure that the designated driver remains totally abstinent.
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