Don't forget to designate a driver

'Tis the season for gaiety, frivolity, partying. That often includes imbibing. There are lots of opportunities to celebrate the season. But before heading off to that office party or neighborhood gathering, be sure to bring along or arrange for a designated driver.

Whether for yourself, your family or your friends, make sure your loved ones are with a competent driver who has pledged to remain sober. It’s often easier to find one if you are willing to trade off and be one yourself once in a while.

While, especially now, we all want a reason to celebrate, to forget our troubles for a while and indulge, the consequences of not being responsible can turn a fun night into a nightmare. Climbing behind the wheel after having a few drinks is definitely not worth the all-too-possible price paid.

Although incidents of drunken driving have gone down by 30% nationwide in the last five years, it is still a serious problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, American adults got behind the wheel about 112 million times after drinking too much in 2010.

Alcohol-impaired drivers — those with blood alcohol levels of 0.08% or more (the legal limit) — were involved in about one in three crash deaths, resulting in nearly 11,000 deaths nationwide in 2009, according to the CDC.

Men far outnumber women in driving drunk, accounting for 81% of drunk driving episodes. And young men, ages 21-34, who make up only 11% of the adult population, were responsible for 32% of all cases of drinking and driving.

It doesn’t take much to cause a problem. Just two beers — 0.02% blood alcohol level — causes a loss of judgment and difficulty doing two tasks at the same time. One more beer increases blood alcohol content to 0.05%, resulting in difficulty steering and reduced coordination. Four beers will take you to the legal limit — 0.08% blood alcohol level — after which you will likely experience trouble controlling your speed and difficulty processing information and reasoning.

As we all know, drunk drivers are a hazard not just to themselves but to everyone else on the road, as well as to pedestrians.

According to the State University of New York at Potsdam, designated drivers have probably saved nearly 50,000 lives, and each year more than 73 million Americans either serve as a designated driver or are driven home by one.

When you are partying with a group, it’s best to decide before going out who the designated driver will be. If you are the host and you see someone too impaired to drive, take the keys and find the person a safe ride home.

If you are the one being asked for the car keys, don’t get angry, be thankful someone cares enough about you to perhaps save your life.