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 alcohol (NDDDS). 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 drivers (CG-Motor vehicle injury). The National Highway Traffic Safety Association recommends choosing a sober designated driver before drinking (NHTSA-Drive sober). Commercial for-profit or non-profit transportation services can also provide designated drivers who drive intoxicated individuals home in their own car (NDDDS).
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Reduced impaired driving
Reduced alcohol-related crashes
Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes
Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries
Evidence of Effectiveness
There is insufficient evidence to determine whether population-based or incentive-based designated driver promotion programs reduce alcohol-impaired driving or alcohol-related crashes (CG-Motor vehicle injury, Nielson 2009, Watson 2014*). Available evidence suggests that such promotion programs may increase the number of designated drivers (CG-Motor vehicle injury, Kazbour 2010) and passengers using a designated driver (Perkins 2010*, Watson 2014*, Kazbour 2010). However, older studies indicate that only a minority of designated drivers appear to abstain from drinking entirely (IAS-Anderson 2006). A South Korea-based study suggests that increased availability of commercial designated driver services is associated with decreases in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities (Chung 2014*). Researchers suggest that such programs be implemented along with other efforts to reduce alcohol-impaired driving (NHTSA-Decina 2009). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.
Impact on Disparities
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 drivers (NHTSA-Drive sober, NHTSA-Super Bowl). NHTSA also has the SaferRide mobile app that helps individuals call a taxi or a friend for a safe ride when intoxicated (NHTSA-Drive sober). 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 driver (TEAM Coalition). 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 establishments (HERO).
As of July 2015, 45 states and Washington, DC have commercial or non-profit designated driver services (NDDDS).
Citations - Evidence
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CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention.
Nielson 2009 - Nielson A, Watson B. The Effectiveness of Designated Driver Programs. Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety. 2009:32-37.
Watson 2014* - Watson A, Watson B. An outcome evaluation of the “Skipper” designated driver program. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2014;66:27-35.
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.
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.
IAS-Anderson 2006 - Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. London, UK: Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS); 2006.
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.
NHTSA-Decina 2009 - Decina LE, Foss R, Tucker ME, Goodwin A, Sohn J. Alternative transportation programs: A countermeasure for reducing impaired driving. Washington DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 2009.
Citations - Implementation Examples
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
NHTSA-Drive sober - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drive sober or get pulled over.
NHTSA-Super Bowl - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). On Super Bowl Sunday, fans don’t let fans drive drunk.
TEAM Coalition - TEAM Coalition. NFL: Responsibility has its rewards sweepstakes.
HERO - John R. Elliott HERO campaign for designated drivers. Be a hero, be a designated driver.
NDDDS - DrinkingAndDriving.org. National directory of designated driver services (NDDDS).
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