Designated Driver = No Alcohol

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Someone handing car keys to designated driver

The holiday season is upon us once again, and alcohol often is served at parties and family gatherings. There’s usually a surge in drunk driving accidents during the month of December. And, sadly, drunk driving deaths increased last year—10,322 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2012.

Drunk driving crashes can be easily avoided—all people need is a “designated driver.”

A designated driver is someone who doesn’t drink alcohol (or use drugs) at an event and is responsible for driving people who have been drinking. Everyone who drinks alcohol and needs to get home, whether it’s from a relative’s house or a restaurant, needs a designated driver. It doesn’t matter if the person drinking is 21 years old or 70.

The troubling thing is, a new study of designated drivers found that 35% of them drink alcohol before driving. These designated drivers just don’t drink as much as those they are driving. But even a little drinking before driving is dangerous.

Even if someone isn’t “drunk”—officially defined as when they have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher—their driving skills may be affected by the alcohol they drank.

In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board wants to lower legal blood alcohol content to .05, because drivers at the current legal limit of .08 still get in accidents, some of which result in death.

What does all this mean? The bottom line is never to get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking—even if it’s a friend, sibling, aunt, or grandparent. There are always alternatives—never hesitate to call a taxi or another person to pick you up.

Tell us: What are your strategies for not riding with someone who has been drinking alcohol?

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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