A Designated Driver Is Not the 'Least Drunk'

Alberta Study Shows Poor Choices by Young Adults

Drinking Driver
Designated Drivers Need to Be Sober. © Getty Images

Instead of picking someone to remain sober and be the designated driver, a new study has found that many young people are choosing the "least drunk" of the group to get behind the wheel after a night of drinking.

"The idea of having a designated driver is a great one, but it's problematic for many people," said Dr. Peter Rothe, lead investigator from the University of Alberta's Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR).

"The concept and practice of using designated drivers should be re-thought to make it more effective."

Not Well Thought-Out

Rothe led a study into how young Alberta drivers -- between 18 and 29 -- used different drinking and driving interventions. He found that choosing a designated driver is not typically a "thought-through" strategy, according to the University.

Of the 1,000 young adults surveyed, some did use a rotating system for choosing a designated driver, but many did not. Almost 18 per cent of those surveyed said they chose the driver during or after they had been drinking.

Alternative Transportation Needed

Many admitted to allowing someone drunk to get behind the wheel rather than risk a physical confrontation. Rothe's study revealed several stories of violent confrontations which took place over who should and should not drive after a night of drinking.

Rothe said educating newly licensed drivers on how to deal with drunk drivers is one of the recommendations that came out of the focus groups.

Others include encouraging communities to provide alternative and affordable transportation, particularly for rural areas.

Parents can play a more prominent role by talking to their children about driving drunk, offering rides for money and taxis and not "bailing out" their children if they crash a vehicle, Rothe said.

Survey participants also recommended forming partnerships with city officials and major industries to offer alternative transportation.

Many communities do offer tipsy taxi and other similar services that offer rides to people who have had too much to drink to operate a vehicle. But, most of those safe-ride services are offered only around holidays, like New Year's and Thanksgiving, and not year around.

Another drawback to the safe-ride programs is the person who is intoxicated has to voluntarily admit they are too drunk to drive and call the alternate transportation service.

Source: University of Alberta, Dec. 1, 2005

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