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How safe are designated drivers, really?

The designated driver program was started to help reduce the number of drunk driving accidents. The idea behind the program is simple: when a group plans a night out, plan for one person to stay sober so that everyone can get home safely. It is a plan that is foolproof, right? I guess that all depends on the designated driver's definition of "sober."

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published a study in the July issue that shows that designated drivers don't all have the same definition of sober. Some hold that sober means zero alcohol, others think that a sip or two is okay, others think that a tiny "buzz" is okay and even others believe that they are "sober" until they hit West Virginia and other state's legal limit of .08 BAC.

Researchers found that the definition of sober varies so much that approximately 40 percent of all designated drivers have actually consumed some amount of alcohol before getting behind the wheel. 

Alcohol affects everyone a little differently and can affect an individual differently depending on the day -- how much food they ate, water they drank, whether they worked out, how much sleep they got the night before. 

There is no doubt that the age/weight/sex measurement to estimate how much an individual can consume before hitting .08 BAC is not a perfect science. An average 150-pound male could have two drinks, but by three he would have crossed the threshold...but that is not for everyone of course.

So when a designated driver says that they just "wait until they feel buzzed" before stopping drinking, it is even less accurate. Yet, drivers admitted in the survey that it was the way they measured their ability to drive. 

We share the roads with these "designated drivers." No matter what the definition of sober, studies have shown that even a .02 BAC can impair a driver. Those who are injured by a designated driver -- regardless of their definition of sober -- should seek the assistance of an attorney who can help them obtain the maximum compensation they may be eligible for. 

Source: CBS News, "Study: One-fifth of designated drivers impaired behind wheel,' Michelle Castillo, June 10, 2013

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