The Use of Designated Drivers to Deter Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Is this a Viable Intervention for a College Community?
Timmerman, Mary Ann
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The use of a designated driver (DD) is reportedly a successful and cost effective way to reduce the number of injuries resulting from driving under the influence of alcohol. Benefits of using a DD are that it promotes the social norm of drinking abstinence, legitimizes the non-drinking role, offers a specific and modest behavior change to avoid DUI, and encourages planning ahead in drinking situations. However, DD programs have been criticized by those who feel these programs ignore the negative implications of drinking as distinct from drinking anddriving, and may actually encourage excessive drinking among passengers. Furthermore, whether the DD actually abstains from alcohol has remained an empirical question. The current study examined the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of male and female designated drivers and passengers of designated drivers leaving drinking establishments in a university town. A 2 (Male vs. Female) x 2 (DD vs. Non-DD) ANOVA indicated a main effect for gender, a main effect for driver type, and a significant interaction for gender and driver type. The interaction was due to a greater reduction in BACs for female than male DDs. The mean BAC for male DDs (n = 46) was .074, and the mean BAC for male non-DDs (n = 140) was .085. In contrast, the mean BAC for female DDs (n = 20) was .022, whereas the mean BAC for female non-DDs (n = 55) was .068. On average, vehicle passengers interviewed had BAC levels above the legal limit of .08 in Virginia. A direct relationship was found between the size of the social group and the probability of the group having a DD. More specifically, 79 % of groups (n = 69) with four or more drinkers had a DD, whereas only 57 % of groups (n = 184) with three or fewer drinkers had a DD. Implications for the future development of DD programs are also discussed.
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