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Breath Alcohol Concentrations of Designated Drivers

Adam E. Barry, Beth H. Chaney, Michael L. Stellefson

Objective: This study established breath alcohol concentrations (BrACs) and alcohol-related behaviors of designated drivers (DDs) to determine (a) whether DDs are abstaining from drinking, (b) whether alcohol-related behaviors of non-DDs and DDs were different, and (c) whether the alcohol consumption of DDs resulted in BrAC levels that affected driving performance or caused psychomotor impairment. Method: We conducted six anonymous field studies during a 3-month period in a southeastern college community restaurant and bar district. Intercept interviews were conducted with 1,071 bar patrons. Alcohol-related behaviors, BrAC, and whether one was serving as a DD were measured. The sample was primarily White (72.7%), male (62.4%) college students (64.7%). Descriptive statistics and an independent sample t test compared the BrACs of DDs versus non-DDs. A one-way analysis of variance examined the differences in the alcohol-related behaviors (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–consumption [AUDIT-C] score) across DDs abstaining from drinking (BrAC = .00 g/210 L), drinking DDs (BrACs ≥ .02 and < .05 g/210 L), and impaired DDs (BrACs ≥ .05 g/210 L). A logistic regression assessed the impact of alcohol-related behaviors (AUDIT-C) on whether one was serving as a DD. Results: Of the 165 DDs, approximately 40% did not abstain from drinking. Approximately 17% of DDs had BrACs between .02 g/210 L and .049 g/210 L, whereas 18% recorded BrACs at .05 g/210 L or greater. The mean AUDIT-C score for impaired DDs significantly differed from both abstaining DDs and drinking DDs. Participants with greater AUDIT-C scores were more likely to serve as a DD and have a BrAC that significantly inhibited driving ability and psychomotor function. Conclusions: These findings identify the need for consensus across researcher, layperson, and communication campaigns that a DD must be someone who has abstained from drinking entirely. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 74, 509–513, 2013)