Designated driver promotion programs

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Designated driver promotion programs encourage the use of designated drivers, who do not drink alcohol at a social event in order to provide a safe ride to others who do consume alcohol1. Population-based campaigns use mass media, social media, and other channels to encourage designated driver use. Incentive programs based in drinking establishments offer free items (e.g., non-alcoholic drinks or food) to customers who act as designated drivers2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association recommends choosing a sober designated driver before drinking3. Commercial for-profit or non-profit transportation services can also provide designated drivers who drive intoxicated individuals home in their own car1.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced impaired driving

  • Reduced alcohol-related crashes

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether population-based or incentive-based designated driver promotion programs reduce alcohol-impaired driving or alcohol-related crashes2, 4, 5. Available evidence suggests that such promotion programs may increase the number of designated drivers2, 6 and passengers using a designated driver5, 6, 7. However, older studies indicate that only a minority of designated drivers appear to abstain from drinking entirely8. A South Korea-based study suggests that increased availability of commercial designated driver services is associated with decreases in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities9. Researchers suggest that such programs be implemented along with other efforts to reduce alcohol-impaired driving10. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) promotes the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over holiday campaign and a campaign to reduce drunk driving on Super Bowl Sunday, including encouraging the use of designated drivers3, 11. NHTSA also has the SaferRide mobile app that helps individuals call a taxi or a friend for a safe ride when intoxicated3. The TEAM Coalition supports designated driver programs at professional and collegiate sports games by offering a sweepstakes incentive to people who register to be a designated driver12. The HERO campaign is another example of a designated driver campaign that encourages use of safe and sober designated drivers through high school and college education programs, community events, and partnership with alcohol establishments13.   

As of July 2015, 45 states and Washington, D.C. have commercial or non-profit designated driver services1.

Implementation Resources

NHTSA-Drive sober - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drive sober or get pulled over.

NDDDS - National directory of designated driver services (NDDDS).


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1 NDDDS - National directory of designated driver services (NDDDS).

2 CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention.

3 NHTSA-Drive sober - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drive sober or get pulled over.

4 Nielson 2009 - Nielson A, Watson B. The Effectiveness of Designated Driver Programs. Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety. 2009:32-37.

5 Watson 2014 - Watson A, Watson B. An outcome evaluation of the “Skipper” designated driver program. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2014;66:27-35.

6 Kazbour 2010 - Kazbour RR, Bailey JS. An analysis of a contingency program on designated drivers at a college bar. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 2010;43(2):273-277.

7 Perkins 2010 - Perkins HW, Linkenbach JW, Lewis MA, et al. Effectiveness of social norms media marketing in reducing drinking and driving: A statewide campaign. Addictive Behaviors. 2010;35(10):866-874.

8 IAS-Anderson 2006 - Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. London, UK: Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS); 2006.

9 Chung 2014 - Chung J, Joo HH, Moon S. Designated driver service availability and its effects on drunk driving behaviors. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. 2014;14(4):1543-1567.

10 NHTSA-Decina 2009 - Decina LE, Foss R, Tucker ME, Goodwin A, Sohn J. Alternative transportation programs: A countermeasure for reducing impaired driving. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 2009.

11 NHTSA-Super Bowl - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). On Super Bowl Sunday, fans don’t let fans drive drunk.

12 TEAM Coalition - TEAM Coalition. NFL: Responsibility has its rewards sweepstakes.

13 HERO - John R. Elliott HERO campaign for designated drivers. Be a hero, be a designated driver.