A sober driver is a person who agrees to abstain from alcohol so that he or she can safely drive a car. The term is most often used in the context of a group outing, where people want to ensure that they can get home safely from going out to a bar, visiting a restaurant, or taking a wine tasting tour. Using a sober driver is an excellent idea, not only because it ensures that the driver obeys the law, but also because it is a commonsense safety measure.
Some people also call a sober driver a designated driver, since he or she is designated to drive the car. Typically, the driver's own car is used, although a designated driver may also borrow or rent a larger car to carry a big group of people. While people in the group drink freely, the designated driver consumes water, soft drinks, juice, and other alcohol-free alternatives. In many areas, someone who is identified as a designated driver may be offered free non-alcoholic beverages at bars, as a reward for his or her service.
Preventing drunk driving is very important. If someone is pulled over while driving under the influence, he or she can face serious fines, jail times, and possible revocation of a driver's license, if it is a repeat offense. The punishment for drunk driving is particularly severe because the practice is extremely risky. Not only does the driver risk injury, but his or her passengers are in danger, as are bystanders such as other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
In many regions, extensive education programs have been carried to discourage drunk driving. Popularizing sober drivers has been an important part of these programs, since governments want citizens to think of designated drivers as both socially acceptable and necessary.
In some cases, people may designate someone who is under the legal drinking age to be the sober driver, if the group is traveling to a mixed-age venue. In other instances, someone may choose to abstain from alcohol for medical reasons, or simply out of a genuine distaste for alcohol. These individuals may sometimes volunteer as designated drivers, so that their friends can enjoy themselves safely. In other cases, someone agrees for forgo alcohol in the interest of the group, and people may take turns being the designated driver on different nights. It is also possible to hire a designated driver, as is often done for wedding parties and other festive occasions.
In some places, a sober driver may drink small amounts of alcohol, with the intention of enjoying part of the outing while staying under the legal limit. While this practice may be legally acceptable, some people feel that it is ethically ambiguous. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment, and serving as a designated driver is a responsibility, much like a job. Just as any amount of drinking on the job is frowned upon, drinking while being a designated driver is also discouraged in some regions.