A study published in the July 2013 edition of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reveals that one-fifth of all designated drivers are intoxicated.
Our Birmingham DUI defense lawyers don't doubt that this may be particularly true on college campuses, where the study took place. But this is one of the major shortfalls of the research: its limited scope.
The researchers from Rutgers focused their study on a Florida college community restaurant and bar district. There, they conducted interviews and examinations involving some 1,070 bar patrons over the course of three months. The sample was nearly 73 percent white, 63 percent male and 65 percent college students. The average age of the subjects was 28.
In other words, it's a small segment of the population, and one that has been proven more prone to binge drinking. Also, this subset, being in college, may not have the same kind of resources as older adults to hire a sober driver. Thus, one of their own is tapped for the job.
Before explaining the results, it's worth noting that drinking before driving – despite every public service announcement you've ever heard – is not illegal, so long as you are at least 21 years of age and you aren't under any kind of community control that would expressly bar you from doing so.
However, what is illegal is driving while intoxicated. Ideally, designated drivers would abstain from any alcohol or substance consumption, just to be on the safe side. However, having a beer or two, particularly over the course of a few hours, should not land you in the legal range of intoxication (though every person metabolizes the drug differently).
That said, the study found that about 35 percent of designated drivers in the sample had consumed alcohol at some point during the evening. About 20 percent consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally impaired.
Of the designated drivers who drank alcohol, about half had blood-alcohol levels that were higher than 0.05 percent. That's the new recommended standard being proposed by road safety advocates, though the current limit is still 0.08 percent.
Again, it's preferable not to drink and drive if it can be avoided. If you all want to imbibe, consider planning on public transportation or having someone who hasn't been out drinking all night come pick you up later.
If you choose to take on the role of designated driver, consider the following:
–Establish who will be the designated driver before the party starts. Larger groups may require more than one designated driver. Taking turns on this can make it fair for everyone.
–If you are going to have a drink and still plan to drive later, have your drink earlier in the evening. Limit yourself to one or two and follow it up with plenty of non-alcoholic hydration and maybe some food.
–Collect others' keys before they start drinking. That way, it won't turn into an argument later if your friends are intoxicated and belligerent.
–Once you have stopped drinking for the night (or if you never started) make it clear to anyone who offers you an alcoholic beverage that you can't because you're driving. This should minimize any pressure.
–If you are afraid you might have overdone it on the alcohol, even though you were the designated driver, don't be afraid to speak up. Better to call a cab than wind up in jail – or worse.
If you are arrested for a DUI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to see how we might be able to mitigate the circumstances of your arrest and minimize your chances of a conviction.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Your designated driver might have been drinking, June 10, 2013, By Val Wadas-Willingham, CNN
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Alabama DUI has Higher Stakes for Some Professionals, May 24, 2013, Birmingham DUI Lawyer Blog