On, Dasher! On, Designated Driver!

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Now, I do not want to sound like everyone's mother, but let's face it, a lot of what Mom taught us was true.

In that spirit, I would like to remind everyone of a proven and socially acceptable method for getting through the holiday season free of tragedies resulting from drunk driving. Designating a driver before you head out for holiday celebrations or meals with your family is a great method for making sure everyone gets home safe. To quote the website of internationally-renowned alcohol expert Dr. David J. Hanson:

Designated drivers have probably saved nearly 50,000 lives and spared many more thousands of people from suffering injury from drunk driving. Over nine out of ten Americans who attend social events where alcohol is served would like to see designated drivers used. And the proportion of people using or being a designated driver has increased dramatically over time. Each year over 73,000,000 Americans either serve as a designated driver or are driven home by one. A designated driver is simply a person who agrees to abstain from alcohol and be responsible for driving others home. The others are free to drink or not as they choose.

Your friends and family can get together and make a schedule for who will be the designated driver at each get-together so that there is no single person who has to go ad infinitum without experiencing the cardio-protective health effects of moderate alcohol consumption. If you are planning a get-together, you can show your sincere hospitality by pre-arranging for people to serve as designated drivers, and be sure to offer a toast or even a small gift to those who choose to serve this vital role.

There are benefits to the designated driver system besides getting home safe:

--Rather than breaking out complex mathematical charts (which can be logistically difficult at a table filled with holiday food) showing your body's ability to metabolize alcohol and the time until you will be driving home, you can relax and enjoy your beverage of choice free of this concern.

--If you are a parent, you are setting a good example for your kids when you designate a driver -- you send them the message that while it is all right for adults to consume alcohol, it is unacceptable for anyone to get behind the wheel after doing so.

--You might have friends who for their own reasons choose not to drink. If given the opportunity to serve as designated driver, they may be elevated from the unfair position of social outcast to real live hero.

This holiday season remember that there is no type of alcoholic beverage that is safe to take behind the wheel with you. Respect the power of what you drink whether it is brewed, distilled, or fermented. Drink in moderation, and when you choose to drink outside your home, please designate a driver.

Throughout this holiday season and beyond, let's eat, drink, designate a driver, and be merry.

Howard Forman is President of Doctors for Designated Driving, the voice of health professionals fighting drunk driving. You can add your voice to the cause by visiting http://www.dfdd.org and going to the Get Involved Section.