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- Upon Further Review: Are Chapter Designated Driver Programs Good in Theory But Bad in Practice?
Newsletter > September 2012 > "Upon Further Review: Are Chapter Designated Driver Programs Good in Theory But Bad in Practice?"
Upon Further Review: Are Chapter Designated Driver Programs Good in Theory But Bad in Practice?
The concept of a Designated Driver (DD) or “Delta Delta” program is a good example of first-echelon logic. The logic: Most chapter members will consume alcohol…that consumption will often occur at venues outside of the chapter house…that consumption will exceed what might be termed safe limits…and therefore, it is an act of sisterhood or brotherhood to provide those individuals who consume alcohol and especially those who choose to consume to excess with a safe ride. The intoxicated member is transported to home, wherever that may be, by a sober driver, in a safe manner. Everyone wins and the concept of members helping members is reinforced in a practical way.
In practice, a number of concerns have arisen regarding DD programs. Those include:
- The Intern Effect. Who gets the coffee? Who runs to the FedEx or UPS station at 4:59 p.m.? It is usually The Intern—the person who is least experienced in company or office culture and has the smallest amount of political capital, much less the moxie to say, “A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Application to men’s and women’s fraternities and sororities relating to DD programs? Pledges or new members are usually saddled with DD duties even if the original plan calls for all members to participate as DDs.
Pledges will not protest the inequity or unfairness of the system because they believe it is part of “earning” their membership. Members will gladly assign away their responsibilities as Designated Drivers for the usual reasons including laziness, scheduling, and “Too tired/busy/involved/don’t have time/I want to party tonight.” Result: The least experienced and mature members of the chapter are dispatched to gather up drunken members and transport them to another location.
- Mission Creep. Theoretically, DDs pick up members who have consumed alcohol and transport them home. However, “Members” can be expanded to include picking up friends of members, sometimes without any members being present, and transporting them to other venues. It is another example of the Field of Dreams syndrome — in this case, “If you make free on-call transportation available people will take advantage of it” -— FOB (Friends of Brothers), girlfriends, friends of friends…and the classic “I can impress this woman by offering her a ride on my command!”
- Mission Creep II: In theory, members who have consumed alcohol and need a ride receive a quick one-way ride from where they are to “home”. In practice, DDs find themselves transporting members to other venues including other emporiums of festive beverages or parties…playing the role of a taxi driver by waiting patiently for an intoxicated member who called for a ride but doesn’t really want to leave wherever she or he is…running errands for members prior to or during the ride including stops at fast food restaurants…bifurcated missions that include taking intoxicated members to another locale and then retrieving them and taking them home.
- “I didn’t send my daughter/son to Old Siwash to be a taxi driver” Parents are weighing in on the expense of DD programs especially when that involves the use of an automobile owned by or entrusted to the son or daughter. The complaints range from the upkeep of the vehicle to the cost of fuel—no laughing matter these days—to damage to the vehicle incurred at night on crowded, busy campus streets to the fact that intoxicated people sometimes regurgitate inside the automobile.
- Is a DD program hazing? It certainly can be perceived as hazing if pledges assume anything more than a pro rata share of the responsibilities. Why require the least experienced and mature members of the chapter to undertake a disproportionately large role in the transportation of older members? Response: Because they will do it, albeit reluctantly, compared to members. And please withhold the “It’s optional” or “They are ‘encouraged’ ” arguments along with, “Er, ah, some bros take part, too” “Some” is not “all”.
- Whose car is used? If the automobile used for rides is not owned or operated by the driver, several scenarios arise that may place the chapter, not to mention the national organization, in jeopardy of litigation. Is the driver familiar with controls and the driving characteristics of the vehicle? Which liability insurance policy applies? Is this transportation for hire?
- Consider the context: What policies, rules and procedures are in place to safeguard passengers as well as drivers? What if the passenger claims that she or he was subjected to inappropriate behavior by the driver during the ride? And, is the driver prepared to deal with two or more intoxicated persons whose behavior may place all involved at risk? In one case a men’s fraternity chapter utilized a 15-passenger van to transport people to and from a social event. The driver lost control of the van and it crashed. One person died and others were injured. The crash reportedly occurred because the driver was distracted by the behavior of passengers.
- Is there a prohibition in place regarding the use of hand-held phones and text messaging by drivers while driving? While this is a rapidly developing area of the law it can be argued that the use of a cell phone and/or text messaging while driving is another form of impaired driving.
- Is the driver competent? A Fairfax County, Virginia jury awarded an undergraduate woman $575,000 in damages after hearing a case involving a “shuttle driver” for a chapter of a men’s national fraternity. The woman was seriously injured after being thrown from an automobile that rolled over while being driven by a member of the fraternity in February of 2009. The driver allegedly drove in a reckless manner and was speeding. The rides were provided by the fraternity to and from a social event.
- Finally, are the drivers checked for sobriety? That is “sober” as in, “No consumption of alcohol or other substances that might affect the ability of the driver to safely operate the vehicle regardless of the amount” When someone places her or his life in your hands, even one beer becomes significant. The definition of “sober” by a 19-year old may well differ from the legal definition.
Designated Driver programs have long been characterized as a reflection of sisterhood and brotherhood—that we are preventing drinking and driving, minor in possession, public intoxication and the other issues that go along with the use of alcohol by undergraduates. Upon further review, the unintended consequences of a “DD” program may outweigh the benefits.