FROM READERS: Tips for being a successful designated driver

Monday, April 29, 2013 | 4:13 p.m. CDT

Andrew Patchell is a senior information technology major at MU who has dedicated more than 1,000 hours and 150 nights of service to giving safe rides to MU students with STRIPES.

STRIPES stands for Supportive Tigers Riding in Pursuit of Ensuring Safety and offers free safe rides home to University of Missouri students. You do not have to be drunk to use STRIPES; you just have to need a ride home. While not all rides fall under the purview of designated driving, it is something that we do. After volunteering at STRIPES for so many nights, I have been asked plenty of times: Why be a designated driver instead of partying?

Whether you are in an organization dedicated to helping people, or just taking on the responsibility for your group of friends, you are still in for a great night. You will be there for all of the adventure and all of the fun. You will be keeping your passengers safe and keeping fellow drivers on the road safe from intoxicated drivers. And you will remember the stories for years to come.

While it is easy to be sober and drive alone, there are challenges when being a designated driver for others. If you are sober and notice that someone else is considering driving under the influence, there are multiple ways to convince them not to drive. The forceful approach is to take away the intoxicated person's keys. They may not thank you at the time, but the ideal results are guaranteed. If you ask to drive them back and they refuse, consider offering to drop by a fast food restaurant on the way. While STRIPES will only drive you home, this has been one of the most frequent requests I have encountered while volunteering for STRIPES or driving friends.

You need to be a defensive driver. Be sure to check that everyone has their seat belts on before driving. On the rare occasion where a passenger tries to leave the car while it is still moving (it happens), you will also want to make sure your doors are locked. When driving on a weekend night, just because you are keeping a drunk driver off the road doesn't mean all drunk drivers are off the road. Make sure to keep an eye out for other people on the road that could be a potential threat to your safety and the safety of your passengers.

When being a designated driver, it is best to plan ahead and drive your group to the party or bars as well as drive them back. When everyone drives, it means that either cars will be left behind or passengers might want to risk driving instead. With more than one sober person at a party, one can drive an intoxicated friend's car back with said friend and then be driven back to the party by the other sober driver. If no one wishes to be the designated driver, Columbia has plenty of taxi services and STRIPES.  The important thing is to make sure that everyone arrives and leaves safely to have fun again next weekend.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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