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What is a Designated Driver?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2017
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A designated driver is a person at a social gathering who promises to abstain from alcohol so he/she can ensure that others arrive home safely. The Harvard School of Public Health Center for Health Communication is widely credited with starting the designated driver initiative in the United States in 1988. By 1991, the concept was so ingrained in the public consciousness that the phrase “designated driver” was officially introduced to the Random House Webster's College Dictionary.

There are a number of methods people use to appoint a designated driver. If the group includes someone who does not normally drink, is pregnant, or is taking medication that should not be mixed with alcohol, this person is the logical choice to be the designated driver. Taking turns or drawing straws are also common methods you can use to choose a sober driver before an event. However, it’s generally a good idea to avoid appointing someone who has a history of problem drinking to be the designated driver. He/she may be simply unable to resist the temptation associated with being around alcohol.

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The concept of using a designated driver is encouraged in a number of ways. Nightclubs, bars, and restaurants frequently offer free coffee or soda to designated drivers. On college campuses, it is common for student organizations to arrange for a special hotline that you can call to obtain a free ride home after drinking. There are also businesses in some larger metropolitan areas that use two person teams to drive partygoers home in their own vehicles. Even Anheuser-Bush, a leading maker of alcoholic beverages, runs media campaigns to promote awareness of the importance of using a designated driver.

When the idea of using a designated driver while drinking was first introduced, the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) went on record as opposing the practice. They felt that designated drivers still encouraged people to consume excessive amounts of alcohol. However, MADD has since changed its position and is now officially one of the most prominent supporters of designated driving.

Although the designated driver approach to control auto accidents caused by drunk driving is most commonly used in the United States, this idea is slowly spreading to other parts of the world as well. For example, the Belgium government has a nationwide initiative called the Bob campaign that encourages people to appoint a sober driver to provide safe transportation after a party.

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Lostnfound
Post 2

@Grivusangel -- The whole designated driver concept is such a good one. It allows people to drink without anxiety about getting home and if you're not a drinker, you say you're the DD and no one gives it a second thought. It works out well. I like your system, too. The group pays the DD's cover. That's cool because during the course of the evening, most everyone in the group will buy a round of drinks for the group, so that's your perk instead of getting a drink.

Bars that don't offer free sodas to the DD are just irresponsible, as far as I'm concerned. They're not serious enough about their patrons' welfare to lose $2 worth of soda in an evening. And believe me -- when the bar has the syrup tanks and CO2, even four or five sodas is about 50 cents worth of syrup.

Grivusangel
Post 1

Since I've never been much of a drinker, I'm usually the designated driver. Even if I'm not, my limit is two, with food, one if I'm not eating. Period. I can't afford to drink. It costs too much, and I don't like it well enough to spend that kind of money on it.

Also, getting free sodas is nice, if the bar offers it.

The way I work it is, if I'm seeing a band with friends, they pay my cover into the event, I'm the designated driver, they can drink without worrying and I get free sodas. Sometimes, the servers will even bring snacks or something. We don't have to take it on a time-about basis. I'm always the designated driver.

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