Avoid a few pitfalls with designated drivers

Designated drivers can be a great idea, but when they are put to the test, confusion and disappointment can occur.

On paper, the idea of designated drivers in North Carolina is great. Someone abstains from drinking alcohol at an event so that everyone else can let loose, and the nondrinker transports everyone home. At the next event, a different person in the social circle is the designated driver and so on.

In reality, however, there can be a few pitfalls with designated drivers.

Failing to define the term

It turns out that different people may have different ideas on what "designated driver" means. Perhaps Person A thinks it means to not drink alcohol, period. Person B believes it means that drinking alcohol at the beginning of an event is okay as long as the driver stops for the last couple of hours. Person C could think that designated driver means it is okay to drink throughout an event but to space out drinks and to drink liquor with lower amounts of alcohol content (in other words, to be just sober enough to drive).

Many times, people do not even realize they are making assumptions. Before anyone goes out with a group of friends, it is a good idea to clarify what the designated driver will do. A simple query such as, "So, you are not drinking at all tonight, right?" goes a long way.

The drivers may be intoxicated too

Forgetting to clarify what "designated driver" means can lead to designated drivers being drunk too. Someone who has a 0.05 BAC is typically legally sober enough to drive but has lost some coordination skill and steering skill among other skills, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Someone like this could be pulled over by police. A DUI charge might not result, but something else such as speeding charges or reckless driving charges might.

And even if everyone agrees that the designated driver will not drink, he or she might not always abstain. It can be easy to get caught up in an event and to drink one beer-only for that beer to lead to more drinks.

One proactive approach is to have a plan for the designated driver at every event. What makes it worth his or her while to abstain? Maybe designated drivers get free soda and/or free food, for example. Also, if someone in the group is known for slipping often on designated driver promises, it is not a good idea to keep asking that person to serve as the designated driver.

It can be scary when anyone, designated driver or not, is pulled over in North Carolina and suspected of DUI. Contacting an attorney as early as possible helps ensure that the driver's rights are upheld.