What are the Duties of a Designated Driver?

Over the years, efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk and drugged driving have led to a better understanding of the risks motorists take anytime they get behind the wheel. Today, we have multiple options for ensuring the safety of ourselves and others around us anytime we choose to consume alcohol. These safer alternatives to driving under the influence (DUI) include planning for a ride, staying in a safe location after drinking, using a taxi or ride-share service, or enlisting the help of a designated driver.

A designated driver, also known as a DD, is the person who chooses to remain sober when others have been drinking in order to provide a safe and responsible ride. A designated driver may accompany others while they drink, or may meet up with others who have consumed alcohol to pick them up and bring them to their destination safely.

While there are now new commercial services for designated drivers one can call when drinking, most often families, friends, and acquaintances will rely on someone they know to act as the designated driver. Just because someone is a designated driver, however, does not necessarily mean they are free from potential problems or even criminal risks. Remember, designated drivers have an important duty in ensuring the safety of others, and should comply with certain obligations:

  • DDs should have a valid driver’s license and proper insurance
  • DDs should not consume any alcohol – being a designated driver does not mean that the person is the least intoxicated in a group
  • DDs should not take any drugs or medications that may impact their ability to drive, even if they do not drink – this includes controlled substances, medical marijuana, prescription medications, and even certain over-the-counter drugs
  • DDs should take the keys before any drinking begins, and remain responsible until any intoxicated passengers arrive at their destination

One of the most significant issues that can arise is regard to designated drivers when it comes to criminal law is that designated driving does NOT mean being the least impaired of the group. Designated drivers should refrain from all alcohol and drug use, as law enforcement can and does make arrests whenever they suspect a motorist is too impaired to drive safely. Having one or a few drinks could very well put a person at or above the legal limit, or simply provide enough justification for an arrest.

Law enforcement will not let you slide simply because you say you are the designated driver if they have reason to believe you are impaired. In fact, many “DDs” have faced criminal investigations and arrests because they made statements that they were the “most sober person.” This provides incriminating insight to an officer that a driver is not completely sober, and that they may have drank alcohol or consumed drugs. This is enough to warrant further investigation into driving under the influence.

If you choose to be a designated driver, do the right thing by forgoing all alcohol or drug use. This ensures not only the safety of others, but also the safety of yourself and limited risks for a criminal arrest. Many programs and drunk driving awareness advocates suggest that designated drivers switch off on different events or outings so that one person does not always have to be responsible for a safe ride. Alternatives can also include safe rides through the use of taxis, ride-share businesses like Uber or Lyft, or other designated driver programs.

If you have questions about DUI in Ventura or any of the surrounding areas, do not hesitate to call a Ventura criminal defense attorney from Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP. Our legal team is available days, nights, and weekends, to review cases free of charge and discuss how we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.