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Study finds your designated driver may be just as impaired as you

We've all heard the familiar phrase: don't drink and drive. For most of us here in Wisconsin, this is a common sense statement that needs no preface. Another common phrase encourages us to drive responsibly and find a designated driver. Seems simple enough. But according to a new study, about 40 percent of designated drivers consume at least some amount of alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car. Furthermore, one-fifth of them may have been just as impaired as the people they were supposed to be bringing home safely.

As some of our readers may remember, advocates against drunken driving recently requested that the government consider lowering the legal limit from .08 to .05. This request was based on numerous studies that indicate .05 as being the level at which people become clearly impaired. And as some researchers at one Maryland University discovered, this may not bode well for designated drivers who decide to drink.

According to recent studies, some designated drivers have admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages until they feel a "buzz." But as some experts point out, this may mean that a person is already impaired and could be a considerable safety risk on the road. A 150-pound man can reach the current legal limit after just three drinks. If the standard were lowered, he would only have to consume two. And although time and food consumption can slow the effects of alcohol, a majority of law enforcement officers say that the only sober designated driver is the one that abstains from any alcohol.

Information such as this can be incredibly useful for drivers because it lets them know at what level they will be too impaired to drive. Most people don't even realize how little it takes to push them over the legal limit and fewer still realize how dangerous this can be to other motorists.

Source: CBS News, "Study: One-fifth of designated drivers impaired behind wheel," Michelle Castillo, June10, 2013

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