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Designated drivers are people who agree not to drink so they can drive their friends who have been drinking. Formal designated driver programs in drinking establishments provide incentives such as free soft drinks for people who agree to be designated drivers. Usually, designated driver arrangements are completely informal. Surveys show that nearly all U.S. drivers agree that having a designated driver is important, and that 72% have served as one themselves (Wicklund et al., 2018).

The designated driver concept has been questioned on two grounds: (1) designated drivers may still drink, though perhaps less than the passengers; and (2) it may encourage passengers to drink to excess. Previous national roadside surveys found self-identified designated drivers were more likely to have a positive BAC in comparison to all drivers on the road (Lacey et al., 2009). A systematic review by CDC found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of designated driver programs (Ditter et al., 2005). A review from Australia concluded that designated driver programs can successfully increase awareness and use of designated drivers, but evidence for changes in alcohol-related crashes is inconclusive (Nielson & Watson, 2009). Generally, the research support is stronger for alternative transportation programs (Fell et al., 2020).