The designated driver program is intended to reduce the number of injuries and deaths that come as a result of drunk drivers. The program may not be working as many people believe. A recent study from the University of Florida showed that roughly 40 percent of the people who had been deemed the designated driver for a group had consumed alcohol. Nearly one out of three car accident fatalities involve a driver impaired by alcohol. Drunk driving accounts for almost 11,000 traffic deaths each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Part of the problem may be how the designated driver program is presented. Is a designated driver someone who commits to not drinking for an evening in order to drive a group safely home? Is a designated driver someone who promises not to get drunk? The current legal limits for drinking and driving may give people confidence that they can have one or two drinks and still drive safely. While it is true that many people can consume that much alcohol without exceeding the legal limit, it is not necessarily true that they can still drive safely. Many studies have suggested that driving is impaired well below the .08 threshold.
The National Transportation Safety Board recently suggested that states should lower the blood alcohol limit for drunk driving from .08 to .05. If adopted, such a proposal would place nearly 20 percent of the designated drivers in the University of Florida study over the legal limit. It might serve to discourage designated drivers from consuming any alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
Source: Fox News, “Nearly 40 percent of designated drivers drink before driving, study suggests,” 10 June 2013