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Designated Driver Laws FAQ

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

You know that drunk driving is unsafe and illegal. You know your friends will be drinking, so you do the safe and responsible hero move and volunteer to be the designated driver. So can you still get in trouble for doing the right thing?

As good as your intentions may be, some bad behavior might still get you into trouble with the law. So here are the do's and don'ts of designated driving:

Can an Underage Driver Have Drunk People in the Car?

All of the intoxicated people in your vehicle are over the age of 21, but you're not. So are you allowed to have some drunk folks in your car if you're not allowed to drink yourself? In most cases, that's perfectly fine. Things could get a bit dicier if your plastered passengers aren't of legal age to drink, but as long as you're perfectly sober and properly licensed, you should be alright.

But What If the Driver Is Only 16?

OK, now you might be in some complicated territory. First, some states have different classes of licenses and learner's permits for 15- and 16-year-olds, meaning that some statutes may require "a responsible adult" to be in the vehicle while the teenager is driving. If so, a buzzed buddy or an inebriated elder (even a parent) may not classify as responsible. Second, some jurisdictions place curfews on young drivers, and if you're shuttling some sloshed sidekicks around late at night, you may be violating a municipal ordinance or two.

And If These Drunk Riders Are Drinking While I'm Driving?

If your companions don't have the good sense to leave the booze behind, you could be in more serious trouble. More than a few open container laws allow cops to cite or arrest drivers if their passengers are holding open bottles or cans or otherwise consuming alcohol on the road. So if you really want your friends to get home safe after a night out, make sure they leave the drinks behind.

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