The Japan Traffic Safety Association (JTSA) has started a new campaign to encourage partygoers to designate a specific person to be the (non-drinking) driver in the group. In English (or, at least, in Canada), we call such people the “designated driver” or “DD”. JTSA wants Japanese people to call them “handle keepers”. It’s a silly name (I am always unimpressed with fake English), and I don’t think the idea will have much success in Japan for two reasons.
1. There are already many different ways for people to get home after drinking: walking, trains (in Tokyo), taxis, daiko (taxi system with two drivers — one driver and you go in your car and the other driver follows you to pick up the first driver when you get to your destination). The daiko system is perfect because it is fairly cheap (about the same as a regular taxi) and it means that you don’t have to figure out a way to get your car back to your house in the morning. I think the designated driver system in Canada evolved out of the fact that we don’t have daikos. Trying to imitate the DD system is a step backwards.
2. It is not a very “Japanese” idea to single one person out of the group and to give that person the huge responsibility of ensuring the safety of all of the members of the group. This kind of burden is not accepted lightly here.
I am usually the designated driver in my group of friends because I don’t really like to drink very often. I am not opposed to the idea of designated drivers, and I am certainly in favour of anything that gets drunk drivers off the road, but I think that this “handle keeper” program is a little off the mark.
Handle keeper page on JTSA website: http://www.jtsa.or.jp/topics/T-71.html (in Japanese)