If you?re a designated driver this Christmas, you deserve a big pat on the back for getting family and friends home.
If you?re a designated driver this Christmas, you deserve a big pat on the back for getting family and friends home.

Driving drunks

By CRAIG McTEAR

MATES behaving badly.

And passengers not wearing seatbelts or yelling out the window.

These have been some of the more unpleasant experiences for Coffs Harbour's Matthew O'Garey when he has been a designated driver.

Unfortunately, his story is shared by many other Good Samaritans nationwide, according to NRMA Insurance research which reveals unruly passengers are causing unnecessary stress.

The survey, which comes in the lead-up to a traditionally hectic time on our roads, found designated drivers were frustrated by:

- having to wait until everyone wants to go or passengers refusing to leave (60 per cent),

- drunken behaviour during the night (45 per cent),

- distractions by passengers (45 per cent), and

- passengers not contributing to parking/tolls/ petrol (29 per cent).

"Some passengers are clearly not respecting the needs of their drivers, which is disappointing," the NRMA's Pam Leicester said.

"Making the designated driver get behind the wheel when they're tired or distracted is a concern, as fatigue and driver distractions are two major causes of collisions."

Mr O'Garey, 32, said he was occasionally a designated driver because he had commitments during the weekend.

"You've got a degree of responsibility legally and morally to the occupants of your vehicle, which would be hard to do if you were intoxicated," he said.

Instead of placing such a heavy burden on one person, the State Government should better subsidise public transport, and there should be an increased emphasis on Drive Wise, he said.

Andrea Polkinghorne, 39, from Coffs Harbour, says she has been a designated driver when she's 'drawn the short straw'.

"You go out saying you'll drive, but occasionally there are times you don't want to be the driver anymore," she said.

Coffs Harbour's Kim Smith, 49, doesn't enjoy being a designated driver 'because you get left out of the group'.

"You stand around all night. It's not a pleasant experience, but someone has to do it," he said.

"Perhaps there needs to be an alternative to designated driving because it puts a big responsibility on people. What if something goes wrong."

Pam Leicester, from NRMA Insurance, said four out of five passengers found it unacceptable for the designated driver to consume alcohol, and three out of five felt it was unacceptable for their passengers to get drunk.

"This is surprising, as passengers will often consume alcohol, but there does seem to be an unspoken limit," she said.

"When passengers get too drunk and start to distract the driver, then this becomes unacceptable behaviour.

"Interestingly, of the motorists surveyed, not being able to drink is only a frustration for one in five designated drivers.

"To support designated drivers and help them be safe on the roads, know your limits and avoid behaviour that may distract the driver on the way home.

"Don't complain when the designated driver decides to leave as they may be genuinely tired. If you don't want a lift, get a taxi or public transport."



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