On Sunday, Feb. 13, the Los Angeles Rams will battle the Cincinnati Bengals at LA’s SoFi Stadium during Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest U.S. sporting event each year that is often celebrated by friends and families at bars, restaurants and house parties. With the potential for fans to enjoy the big game with alcohol and recreational marijuana, the Auto Club, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and law enforcement remind everyone to make plans to get home safely before heading out to watch the game.
“We urge everyone to put choosing a non-drinking, sober driver at the top of their Super Bowl party checklist,” said Patricia Rillera, MADD California State Executive Director. “Whether you are going out or staying in, celebrate with a plan.”
One-third of all crashes in California are due to impaired driving. According to the California Highway Patrol, during the last five Super Bowl weekends there were 2,188 DUI crashes statewide that resulted in 40 fatalities and 802 serious injuries.
“Alcohol slows drivers’ reaction time and impairs their judgement, concentration, and ability to interpret situations, signs and signals,” said Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Traffic Safety and Community Programs Manager.
“CHP officers will be on high alert for impaired drivers this weekend,” said CHP Officer Chris Baldonado. “Alcohol is not the only substance that can lead to an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). Cannabis, prescription medications, and illegal drugs can all impair your ability to drive and send you to jail.”
According to Auto Club research, a first-time DUI conviction in California could cost a driver $22,578 in court, arrest and DMV fines, fees and penalties, alcohol education classes, attorney’s fees and additional insurance costs. Beyond the financial penalties of a DUI, there is a much greater cost which is that of a human life.
“She really was so important to our family and so loved. She was a sweet, kind and loving person, and there was so much she could have done,” said Janelle Weinberg.
Weinberg lost her 21-year-old daughter Ariel Johnson on March 10, 2013. Johnson was lying in the back seat of a car driven by an intoxicated driver who had refused an offer for a paid cab ride home from a party. Instead of taking the safe transportation option, the driver violently hit a telephone pole and crashed into a building in Garden Grove. Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene and the driver and another passenger in the front seat received only minor injuries.
“Unfortunately, I can only talk to you about the 21 years I had with her. I will never have more stories to tell. Those of us who are left behind are faced with constant grief,” said Weinberg. “I am very worried about this Super Bowl weekend. I hear about all these tailgate parties and I think, who is driving them home?”
The Auto Club, MADD and law enforcement offer the following tips to ensure safe roads this Super Bowl weekend.
- Ask guests to designate a sober driver in advance.
- Keep phone numbers for sober ride services handy.
- Take car keys away from partygoers as they arrive and don't let them drive impaired.
- Encourage guests to pace themselves. Serve food and non-alcoholic drinks and water. Many mocktail recipes, including those featuring team colors, can be found online.
- Do not serve alcohol or cannabis to anyone under age 21. It is illegal.
- Allow guests to stay overnight, if possible.
Super Bowl Fans and Partygoers:
- Designate a sober driver or safe ride home before attending a Super Bowl party.
- Make sure your designated driver is sober. If he or she decides to drink, call a sober friend or family member for a ride home. Or, if possible, stay where you are for the night.
- Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been consuming marijuana, drugs or alcohol.
- If you're under 21, do not consume alcohol or marijuana. It's against the law.
- Take your role as designated driver seriously. Refrain from any alcoholic beverages or drugs.
- Always buckle up and require passengers to do the same.
- If someone you know has been drinking or using marijuana, take their keys and help them get home safely.
- 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).