One out of three designated drivers whose blood-alcohol levels were measured as they came out of a bar had been drinking booze, according to a new study.
And close to one in five was legally drunk.
The findings, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, is disturbing evidence that designated drivers often fail to heed the essential rule governing their role, i.e. “you don't drink any alcohol … zilch, nada, none,” as the Drinkwise.ca website puts it.
“A large proportion of those self-identifying as a [designated driver] recorded a BrAC level at or above ... a level at which driving-related skills are negatively affected,” the study’s authors write.
This is particularly worrisome, the authors noted, because “alcohol-related driver impairment, such as divided attention, is further exacerbated by the unsafe actions of drunken passengers (e.g., roughhousing with the driver).”
Only 65 per cent of the more than 1,000 people who self-identified as designated drivers during the research had not had a drink. It’s worth noting, however, that the subjects were approached in what can only be described as extreme conditions: in the bar district of a university town on a Friday night before a big football game. In Florida.
As well, one previous U.S. study of designated drivers found that people who volunteer for the job “tend to be at-risk, heavier drinkers.” It seems that a designated driver is often chosen from within a group of binge drinkers to be the one who will abstain for an evening, or limit himself to one or two drinks.
“Often people choose designated drivers because they’re the ones who’ve drunk the least,” one of the study’s authors told The New York Times.
What about you? Do you let yourself have a drink or two when you’re serving as the designated driver for your friends?