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Study: Just how sober is the designated driver?

A recent study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, points to a large problem in society where designated drivers are drinking to the point of impairment. This is of concern as it means people who are supposed to be sober are still drinking and driving, which increases the chances of getting into a drunk driving accident.

The study surveyed close to 1,100 bar patrons over a three-month period. Of those patrons, 165 said they were designated drivers. This statement alone would lead many to believe they were not drinking alcohol.

However, of those 165, it turns out about 40 percent had something alcohol to drink. Breath tests revealed that 17 percent had blood alcohol tests between 0.02 percent and 0.049 percent. Another 18 percent were at 0.05 percent or higher.

Even though the legal driving limit is 0.08 percent, 0.05 percent is still of concern as this is the level where impairment is obvious. In fact, impairment at this level is so dangerous in terms of driving that federal accident investigators have made the recommendation to decrease the legal limit to 0.05 percent.

To further back up this idea that someone is impaired at 0.05 percent and higher, those involved in the study gave the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-consumption to drivers. The test found those with a 0.05 percent of higher blood alcohol content did experience changes to their driving abilities.

This is why the best piece of advice, from an assistant professor of health education and behavior, is for designated drivers to just abstain from drinking at all. Especially with intoxicated passengers, there may already be enough distractions, so drinking on top of this -- even to a legal level -- is still dangerous.


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