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Study: many designated drivers still drink alcohol

Many people think that having a designated driver take them home will keep everyone safe on the road in Massachusetts. While designated drivers are supposed to be able to safely drive everyone home, a new study found that these drivers are not as reliable as previously believed.

A new study found that some designated drivers still drink alcohol before getting behind the wheel, with one-third of designated drivers consuming alcohol despite the fact that they were supposed to stay sober and drive everyone home.

For the study, researchers surveyed 1,100 bar patrons and tested the designated drivers for their blood alcohol content. The researchers found that of the 165 people who were designated drivers, 65 percent of the them had no alcohol in their blood system. However, not all designated drivers abstained from alcohol.

The study reported that 17 percent had a BAC between .02 and .049, while 18 percent of people had a BAC of .05 or higher. The legal limit in most states, including Massachusetts, is .08.

While not many of the designated drivers' BAC were over the legal limit, the study reported that the designated drivers who had a BAC of .05 or higher could still be impaired and not safe to drive a vehicle. In addition, the researchers suggested that designated drivers who had any amount of alcohol in their system may not be capable of driving safely, especially when they have intoxicated passengers in the vehicle distracting them, and are at an increased risk for being in a car accident.

Since researchers cannot state what specific amount of alcohol makes a driver too intoxicated to drive, public safety advocates say that all designated drivers should be expected to abstain from drinking alcohol if they are going to be driving.

While this study shows that not all designated drivers actually abstain from drinking alcohol, safety groups are hoping that new awareness efforts can be made to help prevent future car accidents caused by unsafe drivers.

Source: HealthDay News, "Designated Drivers Often Drink Themselves, Study Finds," Randy Dotinga, June 10, 2013

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