Study: Designated drivers drink too

6342526_sMany Chicago residents feel safer knowing that designated drivers are a popular choice for those who plan a night of drinking. The idea has been solidly touted for years by multiple state and federal agencies as well as private organizations, as the best method of preventing people from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. However, a recent University of Florida study indicates that relying on designated drivers to remain sober may be questionable and unsafe.

About the study 

In conducting the study, researchers from the University of Florida interviewed people exiting bars in Gainesville, Florida over a three month period. They spent about five minutes asking questions to the designated drivers and non drivers and followed the interviews with a breathalyzer test, the same device that police officers use while out in the field, to measure their blood alcohol content. All participants were over 18 with an average age of 28, and around half were students.

Out of 1,071 people interviewed, 165 said that they were acting as the designated drivers for the night. Of all of the designated drivers, 41 percent registered blood alcohol content on the breathalyzer, indicating that they had been drinking that night. Only 17 percent of the designated drivers had a BAC of 0.02 or lower, and 18 percent had BAC levels of 0.05 or higher.

When Designated Drivers Drink

A Norfolk, Virginia man was arrested for crashing his SUV into a utility pole, causing the death of his passenger. The man indicated to responding officers that he was acting as designated driver that night despite his obvious inebriation. When tested, his BAC was 0.11, well over the legal limit.

Drunk driving in Illinois

Some drivers may not be aware that they do not have to be legally impaired to cause an accident. Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the American Medical Association have called for the legal BAC level to be lowered to 0.05. This limit better reflects multiple studies that have concluded that significant impairment can result from a lower BAC level, leading individuals to unintentionally cause drunk driving accidents. 

Many argue that a change needs to be made, and soon. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, in 2012, 41 people were killed in car accidents where the driver of a vehicle had a BAC of 0.01-0.07. Researchers who took part in the study believe their findings indicate a need for more communications campaigns that clearly show that a designated driver needs to be someone who stays completely sober throughout the night.

Those who have been injured by a drunk driver should contact a personal injury attorney in Chicago to discuss their case. An attorney can help them understand how the legal system works, what they can expect from the resolution of their matter, and explain their rights.