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Designated Drivers Don't Always Help

Canadian survey finds they frequently drink alcohol, too

THURSDAY, Dec. 29, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In many instances, the concept of a designated driver just doesn't work, says a Canadian study that challenges the usefulness of this method of preventing impaired driving.

The University of Alberta survey of about 1,000 people found that the idea of a designated driver is meaningless for many young adults. Instead of opting for a sober driver, they pick the person who is least drunk to be their designated driver, the survey showed.

The study found that the majority of 18- to 29-year-olds have used a designated driver, but many of the survey respondents noted that designated drivers often drink when they're "on duty." And nearly 18 percent of the respondents from rural areas said they choose a designated driver during or after they'd been drinking.

"The idea of having a designated driver is a great one, but it's problematic for many people. The concept and practice of using designated drivers should be re-thought to make it more effective," study lead investigator Dr. Peter Rothe, of the university's Alberta Center for Injury Control and Research, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues also heard that people who try to stop others from drinking and driving are often subjected to abuse.

"One of the biggest surprises to me was how often designated drivers faced verbal and physical abuse from their friends and passengers," Rothe said. "When a friend tries to stop someone from driving drunk, there is often a threat of a fight. We heard from many people who said more often than not, they will back down and allow someone who has been drinking to get behind the wheel rather than risk a fight."

More information

The U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has more about impaired driving.

SOURCE: University of Alberta, news release, December 2005
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