Surprising Study: A Lot of Designated Drivers Are Drinking

Designate a Driver. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. We’ve heard the slogans, seen the ads, heard the lectures. And at some level we get it: if you’re drunk, let someone else drive home.

Neknomination is spreading to the USABut who are you designating, exactly?

If it’s a sober friend – one who’s been nursing a soft drink while you party – congratulations: you’ve figured it out. But if it’s someone who’s just a little less drunk than you, then there’s a problem. And it’s a surprisingly prevalent problem.

A study last year in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs revealed some terrifying news: many so-called designated drivers are only marginally less whiskey-glass-transimpaired than the people they’re driving home.

The researchers interviewed more than a thousand bar patrons, mostly college students. They were sorted into passengers and designated drivers, and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured via a breathalyzer.

The results: about 4 out of 10 designated drivers drank during the evening they were polled. Almost two in ten had a BAC of .05 or greater, and another two registered over .05 BAC. While a BAC of .08 is the standard of intoxication, it’s well known that someone who blows .05 has, in the words of the study, “inhibited driving ability and psychomotor function.” Even those between .02 and .05 are not in the best of shape to handle a carload of revelers and make responsible decisions about them.

The study concludes that there is a need to make public what some people have forgotten, or perhaps never learned: that a designated driver is one who has abstained from drinking entirely.