Having a designated person when drinking?

Last spring, I went with my child for the annual doctor’s visit.

Everything was normal (thank you for wondering). Because I’m a talker and I like to squeeze as much information out of my children’s amazing physician, I tend to ask questions that pertain to my other child. It’s like a two-for-one visit.

My conversation during this physical took a convoluted path from vaccines to underage drinking. I was so impressed with how the stigma of not “having to drink” has evolved through programs like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD was founded in the ’80s by Candy Lightner of Fair Oaks, California, who’s 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver. It is now one of several organizations helping to educate and lobby for stronger laws against drunk driving.

For the record, I do not condone underage drinking. But I am also not naïve, so I have always kept conversations open with my children.

I talked with the doctor about how proud I am that teens and adults are designating sober drivers at parties and clubs. There are plenty of pubs that offer free nonalcoholic beverages to the designated driver. Thank you to places like Hex and Hop! People can also easily take a cab or use ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft instead of getting into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking.

The doctor’s response to this surprised me. There isn’t just a need for a designated driver — people should have a designated person. Seriously, this never occurred to me. Perhaps it has occurred to you or you have heard me shouting it from rooftops since spring. This isn’t a secret, but something that I feel is just as important as teaching your children not to drink and drive. This is not a female vs. male situation, it is an everyone situation.

A designated person is that friend who isn’t drinking and is available to make sure the other friends are safe. If you are driving somewhere, that person is one and the same. The role of designated person pertains to those times when no one in your group is driving. The designated person is making sure that no bad situations happen whether you are walking to a party, cutting through a park or waiting at a corner for an Uber. It may feel like a lot of responsibility for one person, to be wrangling other people. Hopefully, helping people completely out of control is not the consistent role of the designated person. There is no perfect setup, but we always look for the opportunity to have a discussion.

As an adult, it is easy to brush off our children coming of age.

Drinking may or may not be a part of who they become. Teaching them that getting behind the wheel is dangerous and illegal is vitally important. Taking the time to explain that alcohol impairs judgment and to watch out for friends adds a different layer to their safety.

Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to www.adirondackfamilytime.com.