A study conducted by researchers of the University of Florida and published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that many designated drivers drink enough to impair their driving abilities. Over three months, lead author of the study Professor Adam Barry and researchers interviewed and recruited 1,071 people as they were leaving drinking establishments in a college bar district, included 165 people who were designated drivers. Researchers found that 40 percent of those designated drivers consumed alcohol during the night, with a one-fifth of those designated drivers drinking enough to be impaired.
Barry says in the press release that while most people drink until they feel “buzzed”, “alcohol is insidious” and can effect motor and driving skills far before the “buzzed” feeling begins. Designated drivers will have enough to worry about without adding alcohol consumption, he says, saying that a carload of drunken passengers is risky enough. “They may be loud, or start roughhousing. They’re a distraction.”
The researchers also gave the participants an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) to help gauge behaviors based on a person’s level of impairment. What they found was that designated drivers who had a BAC of .05 demonstrated changes with their psychomotor skills and driving abilities, CBS news reported. 18 percent of the study participants blew a BAC of .05 or higher.
In May, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the legal standard of .08 BAC be reduced to .05 to reduce alcohol-related driving fatalities. Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairman said, “Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable. Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”
Even with the federal standard of .08, it is incredibly important that designated drivers do not drink at all. Not only are their passengers counting on them to get them home safely, so is every friend and family member of each person they are traveling with. Such a heavy responsibility deserves to be acknowledged, and when accepted, it should be rewarded.
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