Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Teens Define “Designated Driver” Loosely Says Study

When teens refer to their “designated driver,” they may not mean the same thing as adults. To most people, a designated driver is someone who has agreed to remain completely clean and sober throughout the entire evening and provide transportation for everyone in the group until everyone is safe at home.

Unfortunately, Bloomberg News reports that about 20 percent of teenagers say that they think a designated driver is okay to have “a little bit” of alcohol or other substances as long as they maintain themselves well enough to drive without incident. Additionally, the survey conducted by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) that revealed this statistic also found that:

  • About 4 percent of teenagers defined a designated driver as the most sober person in their group.
  • Approximately 10 percent of teens who said that they had never driven while under the influence of alcohol reported that they had gotten behind the wheel after having an alcoholic drink.

It seems that teenagers believe it’s okay to drive after some amount of substance use. They do not require total sobriety when it comes to picking a designated driver. The results of this dangerous assumption have been deadly time and time again. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2011, in about 18 percent of car accidents that resulted in death among drivers between the ages of 16 and 20, the driver was under the influence.

Legal Limits

In terms of legal allowable amounts of alcohol in the blood (blood alcohol content or BAC), 0.08 is the limit. But long before one hits that amount, they may be too impaired to drive. Judgment and reflexes are not what they should be after a single drink, especially if the person doesn’t drink often.

It’s also important to point out that, legally speaking, no amount of alcohol for any reason is okay for teenagers or anyone under the age of 21. Breaking the law only compounds the potential problems facing those who are underage and who choose to drink in any amount and then drive.

Zero Tolerance

Stephen Gray Wallace is a senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD. He said in a statement, “With teens reporting these lax definitions of what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ a zero tolerance approach is the only answer to prevent potential tragedy. The parents and community have a responsibility to initiate and maintain an open dialogue with teens about exactly what driving under the influence means.”

If your son is unable to stop drinking, we can help. Our call center is open 24 hours a day. Contact us here at Muir Wood today.