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What Is a Sober Driver?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Logicfest — On Jan 17, 2015

@Melonlity -- I haven't seen that happen in a long time around here, so I am disappointed to hear that still goes on somewhere. Otherwise, what's the point of encouraging people to get a sober driver and be responsible?

But, technically, someone who is intoxicated in a car is breaking a public intoxication law. They are in public and intoxicated. Strictly speaking, that is a violation of the law.

By Melonlity — On Jan 16, 2015

@Terrificli -- People who do have a designated driver on hand should be aware that method doesn't always work. In some areas of the country, the police will stop a car full of people who have been drinking, leave the sober driver alone and then charge everyone in the car with public intoxication.

That seems ridiculous, but I have seen that happen more than once. That whole thing seems kind of like a cheap way to write some tickets.

By Terrificli — On Jan 15, 2015

You will often find that sober driver called a designated driver. At any rate, it is a real drag to wind up as the sober driver when everyone else is having fun, but the job is an essential one because we all know the trouble caused by drunk drivers.

The fair way to choose a sober driver in a group is to make sure you revolve that task around so that one person isn't always shouldering the burden of not having any of the fun but all of the responsibility of a night on the town.

Of course, you might get lucky and have someone in your group who doesn't drink. That person could always be the sober driver. Oh, and there is almost always a sober driver service that can help get people who have had too much to drink back home safely. That is a good option, too.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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