At a party or other place that results in a lot of drinking on TV, especially if the place is far enough away to require driving, there is usually one person, pre-selected or out of his/her own volition, who has to not drink at all in order to remain sober enough to drive the other partygoers/drinkers home safely. This is known as the designated driver. This is a Truth in Television, as most times in order to follow road safety laws, people aren't allowed to drive home if drunk.
It should not be confused with either Designated Hero or Designated Villain, which deals with something else entirely. If the designated driver's companions are doing things rather more dangerous than drinking, that's a Getaway Driver (although overlap is not impossible, depending on how able-bodied the drunk are).
- Knights of the Dinner Table: Identifying yourself as the Designated Driver at Hawg Wallers means free soda for the night.
- Pyotr is a designated driver for any patron who requires one in Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. He is also an ethical vampire who siphons off nutrients and toxins from blood in exchange. This has the beneficial side-effect of his 'clients' waking up without a hangover.
- Inverted on the Monk episode Mr. Monk Is the Best Man. Because Stottlemeyer let Monk plan his bachelor's party, Monk supplied 12-ounce bottles of beer to each of the 12 members, resulting in 144 ounces total. In Stottlemeyer's words, that meant they only had enough to make them just slightly sleepy (i.e.,, not drunk enough to require designated driving), or to give it all to one of the members to make him very polluted and make him the Designated Drunk. The majority of the partygoers ultimately go with the latter decision, and Randy Disher volunteers to become the "designated drunk".
- Mentioned on Little Mosque on the Prairie, where the local Muslim population suddenly becomes incredibly popular at around Holiday season and are invited to all the parties, because the Christians need sober people to drive them home.
- Given that Cheers takes place at a bar, this trope is inevitable.
Carla: Sorry, Norm. Until the night is through, you're still the designated driver.Norm: Right. I know that and you know that, but did you have to call every bar in town and tell them?
- The b-plot of one episode has a drawing for the night's designated driver and Norm "wins". He ends up driving everyone else home while being forced to remain sober the entire night.
- Another episode opens with Sam offering to call a cab for a trio of men who have been drinking the entire night. One of them mentions that another is their designated driver. It then turns out all of them thought that another of them was the designated driver. Sam calls them a cab.
- Joked with in another episode. The guys go to a new burger place and gorge themselves. Frasier complains that he only got to eat one. Norm explains that was because he's the designated driver.
- The Good Place: Eleanor has several flashbacks to when she was alive on Earth and she and her friends would go out for drinks. Whenever it was her turn to be the designated driver, she would make up excuses to get out of it. Eventually her friends got sick of it and told her she couldn't have drinks with them anymore if she couldn't own up...so she blew them off so she could hook up with the bartender.
- Inversion: Industrial band Caustic refers to a "Designated Drinker" due to frontman Matt Fanale's sobriety.
- Montell Jordan's 1995 hit "This Is How We Do It" contains the lyric
So I reach for my 40 and I turn it upDesignated driver take the keys to my truck
- In one line of "Beer Run", Garth Brooks laments that it's his turn to drive.
- In a Hollywood Undead song, Charlie Scene states he is the "designated drinker", an obvious parody of this trope
- One Jeff Foxworthy bit is about things you can do if you're a designated driver. For example, drop everyone off at the wrong house. Preferably in their boss' front yard.
"Where the hell are my flamingos?"
- From Stand Still, Stay Silent we get Tuuri Hotakainen. However, the trope is played with a lot: she's appointed the Designated Driver for the team as... the rest of the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits can't actually drive to save their lives, rather than have any plans to get too drunk to. She's the only one who knows how to work gears and all the other steps you need to do, even though she's not exactly had a lot of practice actually being behind the wheel, either.
- Captain Amish of Atomic Laundromat once acted as the designated driver for a number of superheroes. Unfortunately, it didn't work very well. As he is Amish, his "car" is a horse and buggy, and, while the good Captain is a teetotaler, his horse isn't.
- The Simpsons:
- In the episode "New York City vs. Homer Simpson", Moe's Tavern ends up having to institute a new designated drivers policy after his patrons' drunken antics caused a lot of car accidents. Because of this, Moe declares that they're going to pick the designated driver "the same way they choose the new Pope": everyone draws from a jar of pickled eggs, and whomever gets the black egg "wins". Barney ended up getting the black egg, thus forcing the town drunk to go sober for the night; the stress of staying sober the whole night (especially after Duffman shows up with a truckload of beer because Barney won a contest) leads to Barney illegally parking Homer's car...in New York City.
- Subverted in an earlier episode, "Homer vs the 18th Amendment", where Moe tells all of the arriving patrons that it is going to be the biggest drinking day of the year due to it being St. Patrick's Day, and asks for the Designated Drivers to identify themselves. He then tells them, "Beat it. I have no time for cheapskates."
- In the first Christmas Episode of Family Guy, Peter is forced to assume this role and not join in the drunken antics of his friends because Joe already had a few glasses of eggnog.