by Amanda MacMillan
photo by Gourmet/Romulo YanesBad news, party people: That "sober" friend you're hitching a ride home from at the end of the night may not be so sober, according to a new study from the University of Florida released today. When researchers there breathalyzed more than 1,000 people leaving bars after 10 p.m. on Friday nights, they found that 35 percent of designated drivers had been drinking -- and 18 percent had blood alcohol levels of .05 percent or higher.
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That's still technically legal in the United States, where the lower limit for driving under the influence is set at .08 percent. But the researchers say that blowing a .05 can still mean that a person is impaired; in fact, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended in May that the federal government lower the legal limit to this exact level.
Designated drivers often think that just because they don't feel buzzed, they're okay to drive, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs -- but the truth is that alcohol begins to affect your reaction time and judgement well before consciously notice it. (Side note: This may be especially true if you're drinking diet cocktails!)
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Another troubling trend? They way people designate their DDs: "Oftentimes they're chosen by who is least drunk or who has successfully driven intoxicated in the past," says lead author Adam Barry. "[If] Successful [means] got home in one piece ... that's disconcerting," he adds.
Driving with someone who is 100 percent sober is especially important if you and others in the car have been drinking, says Barry, since drunk passengers are more likely to be loud, start roughhousing or just generally cause more distractions.
Moral of the story: The next time you designate yourself the sober one, stay that way!
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by Amanda MacMillan