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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Sep 1;132(1-2):69-73. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.01.014. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Alcohol and drug use among young adults driving to a drinking location.

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Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 11720 Beltsville Drive, Suite 900, Calverton, MD 20705, United States.



Clubs that feature electronic music dance events (EMDEs) draw young adults aged 18-34 who are at high-risk for alcohol-related crashes to locations where alcohol sales are the principal source of revenue. Up to 30% of these attendees may also use drugs. This provides an important context in which to study driving arrangements that reflect concern with impaired driving. We explored whether drivers were using less alcohol and fewer drugs at exit than their passengers were and whether a driver for the group ever changed after consuming too much during the evening.


Using biological measures of alcohol consumption (breath tests) and drug use (oral fluid tests), 175 drivers and 272 passengers were surveyed among young adults arriving at and departing from EMDEs in San Francisco.


Upon exit from the drinking locations, only 20% of the drivers, compared to 47% of the passengers, had a high breath alcohol concentration (defined as a BrAC of .05 g/dL or greater). Further, there was evidence that drivers with high BrACs switched to passenger status on exit and former passengers with lower BrACs replaced those drivers. However, there were no differences in the prevalence of drug use among drivers and passengers.


These findings suggest that the effort by young adult drivers to avoid alcohol-impaired driving appears to be reducing the number of drivers with high BrACs returning from drinking locations, such as EMDEs, by about one third. However, there is no similar pattern for drugged driving.


Designated drivers; Drinking and driving; Drugged driving; Impaired driving; Public education

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