Anyone who has seen or heard an ad for beer, wine or liquor has heard the tag line, “Please drink responsibly.” To drink responsibly sounds like an unattainable feat. Don’t many people have a drink to relax and escape their responsibilities for a bit? When examined, however, this statement refers more to drinking in a way that is safe for the drinker and those around them. There are two effective ways to accomplish this: designated drivers and monitoring and limiting your alcohol intake.

A designated driver agrees not to drink any alcohol and is responsible for driving home those who drink. Designated drivers save lives and spare many from injuries associated with drunk driving.

The designated driver helps friends avoid embarrassment, fines and jail time while keeping their drivers’ licenses and avoiding injury and possible death. Unfortunately, many times the designated driver is teased by the very people he or she is trying to help. This is unfortunate because the designated driver approach prevents someone under any level of impairment from driving. It settles the decision about who should drive, and no one needs to determine who has had the least to drink. The group should respect the nondrinker because they are doing his or her part to get everyone home safely. The nondrinker is not a “party pooper,” but a means to keep friends safe during a night of drinking. The main benefit of the designated driver concept is that it is easy to understand, doesn’t cost a penny and is very effective.

When planning to use a designated driver, follow these tips:

• Plan ahead—when there will be socializing with alcohol, figure out beforehand who the designated driver is. This eliminates confusion upon arriving at a party or event about who should and should not be drinking.

• Take turns—it can be a real drag if one person always has to be the designated driver. This plan works best if everyone in the group takes a turn; then, no one will feel obligated to take on the responsibility.

Sometimes, however, the designated driver indulges, or there isn’t a designated driver available, and you have to drive yourself home. If you must drive after drinking, don’t allow yourself to get drunk in the first place. There are many guidelines to help you have a good time at a gathering and still stay sober and get yourself home safely.

• Alcohol is alcohol. The contents of a bottle or can of beer, a glass of wine or shot of hard alcohol all have the same amounts of pure alcohol and will have the same effect on your body and your blood alcohol content.

• Know your limit. Know how much you can safely handle and not get drunk. A good general guideline is to limit yourself to one alcoholic drink (beer, wine or hard liquor) per hour.

• Sip the drink. The faster you drink, the faster your body will absorb the alcohol. Slow down!

• Don’t participate in chugging contests or drinking games. Again, the faster you drink, the faster you’ll get drunk and lose the ability to slow yourself down.

• Eat food while you drink. This will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your body. High-protein foods (meat, cheese, peanuts) are especially helpful in preventing intoxication.

• Get a drink only when you really want one. If someone is nagging you to get a drink, ask for a nonalcoholic beverage. If this doesn’t work, accept the drink and then “lose” it by setting it down and walking away.

• Skip a drink. Alternate a nonalcoholic beverage with each alcoholic drink you have. This will help slow down your consumption.

• Keep active. If you stay active—play darts, horseshoes or dance—you tend to drink less and also to be more aware of the effects of the alcohol.

• Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Drinks such as Zombies, Mind Erasers, Long Island Iced Teas, etc., can be deceptive; you may not know how much alcohol they contain. If the alcohol is difficult to detect, it will be difficult to space the drinks out properly.

If these tips fail and you find yourself intoxicated and without a designated driver, do the smart and responsible thing: call someone to come and get you or call a cab. It is better to get home safely than risk injury to yourself and others while on the road.

KELLY is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 and dkelly@intecweb.com. Joe O’Connor edited this article.