Rules & regulations

8 things to remember if you’re the designated driver

First: you're a champ. Being the designated driver is a big deal and you deserve some serious brownie points - which, as you know, are redeemable at all good bars on nights when you're not driving.

But it's also a big responsibility. You're in charge of your friends' safety, at a time when they may not be in their most safety-conscious state. So, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t drink and drive - ever

    Harsh but fair: one drink can lead to another and before you know it, 4 people are stranded. Or worse, they’re trying to convince you that you're OK to drive.

    In Ontario and the rest of Canada, the maximum legal blood alcohol level for fully licensed drivers is .08, but for all drivers under 21 and those with G1 or G2, that number is zero. It’s quite simple: don’t drink and drive.

  2. Finalize your passenger list in advance

    You don't want a fight on your hands as can-I-get-a-ride time comes around. The only fair way to decide is on a first-come, first-serve basis and that means before you go out.

    Piling in more people than there are seatbelts is a big no-no. Not only is it very dangerous and distracting, you are also likely to be stopped by police with a car full of drunk people. And that can take a long while to sort out.

  3. Set some ground rules

    Yeah, drunk people aren't the easiest to reason with, but if you stick to the same rules every time you‘re the designated driver, hopefully a few will stick.

    Take your pick:

    • Seatbelts. ALWAYS.
    • Upfront payment of a couple of bucks
    • No music or driver's choice
    • There is no such thing as calling shot gun
    • No smooching, fighting, or loud singing
    • No food stops
    • 1 drop-off point
  4. Prepare for a battle

    I'm sure your friends are lovely but no one is at their best after a few Jagerbombs.

    The chances of fighting, crying and getting sick are greatly increased at this point so be prepared:

    • Arrange a meeting point and then move swiftly to the car as a group
    • Don't get involved in disagreements or tantrums: if they can't behave, they can get a cab
    • Keep plastic bags and water in the car for anyone feeling queasy
  5. Choose your nights wisely

    While volunteering to be a designated driver is a noble thing, do you really want to? For important occasions like Canada Day or Christmas, the risk of you feeling left out and having 'just one drink' is much higher.

    So why put yourself in that position? Club together with your friends and call a big taxi. Most companies have 8 seaters or even bigger, and between that many people it's actually an affordable way to get home.

  6. Have your fun where you can

    Being the only person not drinking can be a bit annoying. But if you look at it from a different perspective, there are a few perks:

    • Being the most attractive member of your group is guaranteed by about 10pm
    • Any joke you tell will be hilarious because the average IQ has dropped several points
    • Out of the driving seat, your phone is your friend - capture the beautiful (embarrassing) moments for blackmail
  7. Work out a rotating schedule

    If you go out with the same group of friends every Friday night, put the weeks of events into a hat each month and draw names.

    It's 100% fair, and anyone that doesn't drive can pay their way. Just be prepared for a bit of healthy debate over the scheduling.

  8. Don't take nonsense

    Your car, your licence: your rules. Be sure to keep a cab number handy for anyone who can't quite grasp that. One less person to take home next time!


Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. She started learning to drive last year, at the age of 24.