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Study on designated drivers revealing on several fronts

As was widely reported in news outlets in recent months, safety officials in every state, including Ohio, have been on the receiving end of a strong federal push to change their drunk driving laws. At the center of recommendations has been the stated need for uniformity across the country in adjusting the current DUI threshold in every state of a 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) to a standard of 0.05.

Doing so would have an immediate and material effect in reducing car accidents, authorities say, with safety experts additionally pointing out that the lower level would greatly curb fatal crashes, which feature comparatively often with drunk drivers.

Proponents of such a change have just been given ammunition for their arguments courtesy of a study recently published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. What researchers say their scrutiny of bar patrons and designated drivers reveals is that the persons identified as non-imbibers and safe drivers on a night that their friends are drinking are, unfortunately, often drinking right along with them.

The relevant statistics uncovered: About 40 percent of the designated drivers studied consumed some alcohol before getting behind the wheel at the end of the night, with approximately 20 percent of them being noticeably impaired, even if beneath the 0.08 DUI threshold. That equates to fully eight percent of designated drivers having diminished motor and driving skills.

That is obviously not the intent that underlies the designated-driver idea, and those pushing for a lowered BAC level nationally can point to the study’s findings to support the evidence that just a couple drinks can notably impair driving skills in most drivers.

The bottom line, say study commentators, is twofold: Designated drivers should not be drinking at all, and the national BAC level needs to be lowered measurably.

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