Super Bowl 50 - this weekend with the Denver Broncos battling the Carolina Panthers in the San Francisco Bay area - is the nation’s biggest annual sporting event with millions of fans watching the game at parties, or viewing from restaurants and sports bars where alcohol is typically served and consumed.
With the emphasis on parties and restaurant outings, Super Bowl Sunday drinking and driving crashes in California are greater – about 75 percent greater than on other comparable Sundays in January and February, according to a 10-year analysis of fatal and injury crashes conducted in 2013 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 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). In Los Angeles County, the analysis showed that there were 55 percent more fatal and injury DUI crashes on Super Bowl Sunday than would have been expected, according to Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Auto Club’s community programs and traffic safety manager.
The analysis found that over the 10-years from 2002-2011 there were 642 alcohol-related fatal crashes on Super Bowl Sunday. 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 Lorz Villagrana. “The numbers seem to be fairly consistent from year-to-year.”
Designate a Sober Driver
“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,” Lorz Villagrana added. Motorists are encouraged to take the sober driving pledge at: http://duijusticelink.aaa.com/for-the-public/take-the-pledge
California law enforcement officials arrest large numbers of DUI offenders every year. In 2013, an estimated 160,000 drivers were arrested for the offense, enough to fill Dodger Stadium roughly three times. “The toll from drinking and driving in California is enormous,” said Lorz Villagrana. In California, 24,000 individuals were killed or injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2013, she added.
A recent AAA report found that 10 percent of motorists admit to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. “This is entirely preventable,” said Lorz Villagrana.
Auto Club Reminds Drivers of the Cost of a DUI
People convicted of driving under the influence could lose many of the things they value most in their lives, such as family, job, dignity and money. The Auto Club estimates that a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California for an adult age 21 or older can cost approximately $15,688 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. Costs related to DUI have risen sharply in recent years largely due to a large increase in fines and insurance for DUI drivers. The estimated cost of a first-offense misdemeanor DUI for those under age 21 is $22,500.
The national picture of annual drunken driving fatalities is grim as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,076 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2013, an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality every 52 minutes. Drunk-driving fatalities accounted for 31 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.
To help keep drivers and passengers safe on Super Bowl Sunday, the Auto Club recommends these tips:
For Home Party Hosts:
- Ask all your guests to designate a sober driver in advance.
- Keep numbers for local cab and sober ride services handy.
- 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 and water. Many mocktail recipes can be found online, including AAA.com/Westways
- 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. Begin serving coffee and dessert.
- Allow guests to stay overnight, if possible.
For Party Guests or Patrons Watching the Game at Restaurants-Bars:
- Designate a sober driver in advance if attending a Super Bowl party.
- Keep a cab company and/or sober ride service telephone number in your cell phone and wallet so you can call for a ride home.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol, too quickly. Eat food and 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.
- If you’re under 21, do not consume alcohol. It’s against the law.
- Buckle your seat belt each time you drive.
- 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).