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Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Designated Driver Promotion Programs

Two types of programs to encourage designated driver use were evaluated: (1) population-based campaigns, and (2) incentive programs based in drinking establishments. Population-wide promotion campaigns use mass media and other communication channels to promote designated driver use. Incentive programs offer free incentives to encourage customers of drinking establishments to act as designated drivers.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of the following designated driver promotion programs in preventing alcohol-impaired driving:

  • Population-based campaigns (only one study qualified for review)
  • Incentive programs in drinking establishments (based on small effect sizes and limitations of the outcome measures)

Results from the Systematic Reviews

Population-Based Campaigns

One study qualified for the systematic review.

  • Respondents "always" selecting a designated driver increased 13 percentage points, but self-reported alcohol-impaired driving or riding with an alcohol-impaired driver did not change significantly (1 study).

Incentive Programs

Eight studies qualified for the review.

  • Designated drivers per drinking establishment per night: median increase of 0.9 designated drivers (interquartile interval: 0.3 to 3.2; 7 studies)
  • Respondents exposed to an incentive program reported a 6 percentage point decrease (p <.01) in self-reported drinking and driving or riding in a car with an intoxicated driver (1 study).
  • The most common incentive offered was free soft drinks, though other incentives, such as more exotic nonalcoholic drinks, nonalcoholic beer, food, or admission may also have been offered.
  • Displays in the drinking establishment were the most typical method of informing customers about the availability of incentives.

These results are based on a systematic review of all available studies led by scientists from CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention with input from a team of specialists in systematic review methods and experts in research, practice and policy related to reducing alcohol-impaired driving.

Supporting Materials


Ditter SM, Elder RW, Shults RA, et al. Effectiveness of designated driver programs for reducing alcohol-impaired driving: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 146 kB] Am J Prev Med 2005;28(5S):280-87.

Read other Community Guide publications about Motor Vehicle-Related Injury Prevention in our library.

*PDF includes all of the information available and will not be updated.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: designated driver programs. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: October 2003