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Designated Drivers Are Drinking, Too

By Victoria Kim 06/10/13

A study finds one-third of designated drivers don't remain completely sober.

So, who's driving? Photo via

More than one-third of those designated to drive their drinking buddies home drank and drove instead of abstaining, a recent study found. Researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville interviewed and breath tested more than 1,000 people—mostly college-aged males—as they left bars in an unidentified Florida town, over the course of a three month period. Of the 165 people who identified themselves as designated drivers, only 65% showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of zero. Of the non-sober designated drivers, 17% had a BAC of 0.02%-0.049%, and 18% had a BAC of 0.05% or higher. The current legal limit is 0.08% or higher, though it could soon be lowered to 0.05%. The study’s lead author, Adam E. Barry, an assistant professor of health education at the University of Florida, says using a designated driver may no longer be an effective safety precaution, since many drivers believe they're okay to drive after a limited amount of booze. "While more of the designated drivers didn't drink than did drink, which is a good thing, you have people being selected because they're the least drunk, or the least intoxicated or they've driven drunk before," he says. James Lange, alcohol researcher and coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Initiatives at San Diego State University, says any amount of alcohol may be dangerous, since tolerance for alcohol can vary. "It would be difficult for me to make a blanket statement that a certain amount [of alcohol] is OK," he says. "The easiest recommendation is that they don't drink at all.

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