Drunk driving and designated drivers

Driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances continues to be a serious public safety problem on Florida roads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 2.1 percent of Florida adults said they drank to excess before getting behind the wheel in 2012. That may not seem like such a large percentage to many, but the grim reality is that drunk driving accidents claimed the lives of 8,476 people in the Sunshine State between 2003 and 2012.

With alcohol consumption across the nation contributing to one out of every three car accident fatalities, anything that might reduce the number of intoxicated people on the roads is a good thing. Having a designated driver who agrees to remain sober in order to safely operate a vehicle for his or her friends could be a literal life saver. However, their effectiveness relies upon their commitment to staying dry.

NPR reports that many designated drivers may be dropping the ball. One study conducted by the University of Florida found that 41 percent of self-identified designated drivers had consumed alcohol. The study was held on a game night and focused on people who were leaving local bars. In all, 165 people out of 1,071 patrons were identified as designated drivers. Out of that number, breath tests showed a blood alcohol content level of .05 or higher in 18 percent. Additionally, BAC levels of .02 or lower were found in 17 percent of the group. BAC levels of this low measure have been found to impair driving skills, according to other studies conducted.

Designated drivers need to understand that they should not drink at all, study authors say. They recommend new messaging campaigns to hammer the point home. The National Transportation Safety Board wants to go further. It would like to see state laws changed to lower the BAC level for driving under the influence to 0.05.

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