Designated Drivers too often Fail to Stay Sober

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a recent article published by NPR on designated drivers. The article points to recent research which found that over 41% of “designated drivers,” when given breath tests, had been drinking.

On top of this, nearly 20% of those designated drivers were drinking enough to be considered impaired drivers. Another U.S. survey found that American drivers think it’s completely fine for the designated driver to drink, just so long as their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and involved more than 1,000 leaving bars in Gainesville on a random Saturday night (although it was after a Gator’s home football game). Among these bar patrons about 165 people claimed to be the designated driver. As stated, the breath tests proved that 41% of those drivers had been drinking.

About 17% of them had BAC levels of .02% or below, but another 185 had BAC levels higher than .05%. Fortunately, all participants were of legal drinking age (the average age around 30, and about half of them were students. Additionally, the more impaired drivers were more likely to binge drink and engage in dangerous drinking behavior overall. If you would like to read the full study, it was recently published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system, however, is exceedingly dangerous, more so than most people realize. Some studies have found that driving skills are impaired even by a .02 BAC (the legal limit is .08). By the time their BAC gets to .05%, nearly everyone is unable to drive adequately.

Last month the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted to lower the BAC limit for drivers .05% nationwide. The measure was decided in attempt to reduce the number of drinking-related road deaths through stricter enforcement. The NTSB does not have the power to change state laws, however, its backing of the lower legal limit could add pressure to legislators and advocacy groups.

Drinking-related deaths account for about 30% of all roadway fatalities in the U.S. every year, and in a 2011 survey the AAA found that about 15% of drivers admitted to driving when they were either close to or knowingly over the legal limit.

In related news in Chicago, a sentencing hearing recently concluded for a drunken boating accident that killed a ten-year-old boy. Last July, the boy and his family were enjoying a day on Petite Lake when David Hatyina – who later pleaded guilty to operating his boat under the influence of cocaine and alcohol – ran over the little boy while his family watched.

The family was inner-tubing on the lake when the little boy asked his sister, 19, for one last ride. She allowed him to, and was forced to watch helplessly as Hatyina’s boat plowed over his body. He died instantly. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer Christ Winters testified that Hatyina operated a 30-foot boat named Purple Haze, and that three different types of alcoholic beverages were found on the boat. Other officers stated that Hatyina failed field-sobriety tests and admitted to drinking after the incident. He told officers a pontoon boat crossed in front of him causing him to swerve sharply.

The little boy’s father told the Sun-Times that society needs to know what happened to his son was inexcusable, and that he hopes the court’s sentence will save other children. Hatyina could serve up to 14 years in prison.

Boat accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any significant studies, reports, and articles relating to these issues. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a boating or driving accident caused by the negligence of another, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

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