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Is Your Designated Driver Also Drinking?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When you go out to a bar with friends, do you expect the designated driver in your group to abstain from alcohol completely?

Researcher Adam Barry, assistant professor of Health Education and Behavior at the University of Florida, tested about 1,000 college students on six different nights who said they were the driver and found that 35 percent of them by the end of the night were drinking. Of that group, about 18 percent had a blood-alcohol level above .05 percent.

“Our legal limit is .08, but at .05 the vast majority of the research says that driving-related abilities -- specifically divided attention -- is significantly impacted and a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is diminished,” Barry said.

Most designated drivers didn’t have anything to drink -- the rest had lower blood=alcohol content.

But Barry says he wants young drinkers to know that even a little bit of alcohol can impact how you react behind the wheel.

“You'd hope that anyone who is going to be on the roadway isn't impaired by alcohol and you'd especially hope that of a designated driver who probably has a carload of people with him,” Barry said.

“We were a little surprised," Barry said. "We'd hoped that we wouldn't find anything, that all designated drivers would have a zero blood-alcohol concentration, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.”

Impairment of driving-related abilities occurs at low levels, Barry said, so the designated driver should be abstaining altogether.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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