Effectiveness of Designated Driver Programs for Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: A Systematic Review

  • Published: Am. J. Prev. Med. 28(5S), 280-287, 2005
  • Authors: S.M. Ditter, R.W. Elder, R.A. Shults, D.A. Sleet, R. Compton, and J.L. Nichols
  • Date Added: 28 Mar 2013
  • Last Update: 28 Mar 2013
  • Format: pdf


To assess the effectiveness of designated driver programs in reducing alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes.


Systematic review, conducted according to the methods developed for the Guide to Community Preventive Services. Nine studies were included which evaluated either population-based campaigns that encouraged designated driver use (n=1), or incentive designated driver programs in drinking venues that provided incentives to patrons to act as designated drivers (n=8).

Key Findings:

  • A 3 month campaign to promote the concept and use of designated drivers reported a 13 per cent increase in telephone survey respondents ‘always’ selecting a designated driver, but no significant change in self-reported alcohol-impaired driving.

  • Incentive programs based in drinking establishments to encourage people to act as designated drivers showed a median increase of 0.9 in the number of patrons who identified themselves as designated drivers each night after the program was implemented.

  • In 2 of the studies reviewed, the number of self-identified designated drivers returned to baseline immediately after the enhanced incentives were withdrawn.

  • All outcome measures had limited value in assessing the potential injury prevention benefits of the programmes.

  • There is insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of either campaign or incentive designated driver programmes for reducing alcohol-impaired driving and crashes.


Alcohol-impaired driving, designated driver programs, systematic review.


No studies that assessed the effects of designated driver programs on alcohol-related crashes were found.