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Considerations for a Designated Driver Program

Updates from Lexington

Many chapters implement a designated driver program to provide a sober transportation option for members, and in some cases their guests. On the surface this seems to be a well-intentioned harm reduction strategy to help members with safe transportation on nights they choose to consume alcohol. However there are several things a chapter should consider in determining whether or not to incorporate a designated driver program into the chapter’s operations.

  1. Hazing – if only candidates are assigned to serve as designated drivers and/or serving as a designated driver requires staying up past midnight on night(s) before classes, the chapter may be engaging in hazing. Assigning responsibilities to candidates, without a valid educational purpose specific to candidates (e.g. required study hours for candidates only because freshmen need additional educational support transitioning from high school to college), is hazing. Serving as designated drivers does not serve an educational purpose specific to new members thus all members should be involved if a chapter elects to employ a designated driver program. Lastly, requiring candidates to engage in fraternity activities that interfere with academic commitments such as through sleep deprivation is hazing.
  1. Liability – people providing transportation on behalf of the chapter means the chapter would likely be legally responsible, at least in part, for any damages that should be caused as a result of an accident or other incident occurring during a ride provided through the chapter designated driver program. In many cases, the sober driver, with little to no training on providing professional transportation, will be providing transportation to intoxicated individuals who may be engaging in a variety of distracting behaviors while in the case. This combination of an untrained driver with a load of distracting passengers can greatly increase the likelihood of an accident occurring.
  1. Best Option? – in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number and accessibility of cheap, safe third-party transportation options. Uber, Lyft, taxi cab companies, professional bus companies, campus transportation networks are all safe transportation options without the liability and other potential issues and challenges of a chapter-sponsored designated driver program.

While begun with the best intentions, it may be time to reevaluate the continuation of the chapter’s designated driver program. More guidance on providing safe transportation for chapter members and chapter events can be found in the Designated Driver Program resource created by Holmes Murphy, leading insurance broker for Sigma Nu and many other fraternities and sororities. Also, if you should have any questions, please feel free to connect with Fred Dobry, Director of Health and Safety, at fred.dobry@sigmanu.org.

© 2015-2018 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: 540.463.1869 | Fax: 540.463.1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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