Super Bowl Sunday drinking and driving crashes in California are 75 percent greater than on other comparable Sundays in January and February, according to a 10-year analysis of fatal and injury crashes from 2002-2011 by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
This is a substantial increase compared to the Auto Club's 2004 study of Super Bowl Sunday crashes. That study looked at California data for the years 1994-2002 and, found that alcohol-related fatal and injury drinking and driving crashes increased 41 percent on Super Bowl Sunday (compared to other comparable Sundays). Both studies excluded January and February holiday periods from the analysis (New Year’s, President’s Day and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday).
Over the period from 2002-2011, there were 642 alcohol-related fatal crashes on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the Auto Club analysis. The analysis found that if alcohol-related crashes on Super Bowl Sunday were no higher than on other comparable Sundays, 276 fewer fatal and injury alcohol-related crashes would have occurred.
“In other words, 28 more alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes occur annually in California due to drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday,” said Steve Bloch, Ph.D., Auto Club senior researcher. “And the data seem to be fairly consistent from year-to-year.”
Los Angeles County data show that, over the 2002-2011 period, there were 55 percent more fatal and injury DUI crashes on Super Bowl Sunday than would have been expected.
Super Bowl Sunday More Popular, Dangerous; Designate a Sober Driver
The Super Bowl Sunday football game observance has grown with football fans and their families watching the game with clever car and product commercials and a half-time show spectacle. But game festivities also have grown at home parties where large amounts of alcohol are served, along with special theme promotions at restaurants and sports bars becoming extraordinarily popular. “That appears to have caused the day to become even more dangerous on the road in recent years,” said Bloch.
“The Auto Club strongly encourages party goers to designate a sober driver to get them home safely after the game. Education and law enforcement have proven to be effective tools in reducing drinking and driving crashes, but prevention is the best tool of all,” Bloch added.
The national picture of annual drunken driving fatalities is grim as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,878 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2011. Drunk-driving fatalities accounted for 31 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States. In addition, alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was almost twice as high during the weekend (31 percent) than during the weekdays (16 percent) and four times higher at night (37 percent) than during the day (nine percent).
To help keep drivers and passengers safe on Super Bowl Sunday, the Auto Club recommends these tips:
For Party Guests or Patrons Watching the Game at Restaurants-Bars:
- Use a designated driver if attending a Super Bowl party.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol, too quickly. Eat food and also drink water during the party.
- Call a sober friend, family member or a taxi for a ride if you’ve been drinking. Or, if possible, stay where you are for the night.
- Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.
- Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home.
- If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).
- If you’re under 21, do not consume alcohol. It’s against the law.
- Buckle your seat belt each time you drive.
For Home Party Hosts:
- If hosting a Super Bowl party, be a responsible host. Take car keys from partygoers as they arrive and don’t let them drive drunk.
- As a host, serve food and non-alcoholic drinks. Serve protein-rich and starchy foods to slow alcohol absorption.
- Do not serve alcohol to anyone under age 21.
- Stop serving alcohol in the third quarter of the game. Offer more food, coffee, and desserts to party guests.
Auto Club Reminds Drivers of the Cost of a DUI
The Auto Club reminds motorists that people convicted of driving under the influence could lose many of the important things in their lives, such as family, job, dignity and money. The Auto Club estimates that a first offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California can cost approximately $15,649 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. The figure is up 29 percent from the figure the Club computed in 2011 – largely due to substantial increases in court and arrest fees and auto insurance rates that reflect a DUI conviction. The cost of an under age 21 first-offense misdemeanor DUI is even higher, estimated to be $22,492.