With one of the biggest drinking events of the year looming this weekend, safety advocates are beseeching Super Bowl party celebrants not to park their drunkenness behind the wheel of an automobile.

The parties that usually begin in mid-afternoon and extend deep into Sunday night spill a vast number of drunks onto the roads afterward, creating mayhem that rivals some of the other big drinking days, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, July 4 and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when kids returning from college regroup with their friends.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that 40 percent of fatal crashes on Super Bowl Sunday in 2010 were connected to drunk driving. The agency says that alcohol was a factor in a fatal accident every 52 minutes.

“On Super Bowl Sunday and every day, we implore all road users to obey the rules of the road, particularly impaired and distracted driving laws,” said Rita Kreslin, director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, an organization that works to minimize drunk and distracted driving crashes. “Far too many are injured or killed on our roadways every year when drivers take the chance of driving impaired.”

The Traffic Safety Coalition said that this year more than 175,000 people who plan to watch the Super Bowl have pledged to be designated drivers.

A federal agency reports that 40 percent of fatal crashes on Super Bowl Sunday in 2010 were connected to drunk driving. (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

“When so many groups of friends and families are gathering to enjoy football, it is crucial we remind drivers to be responsible on the road,” said Traffic Safety Coalition Co-Chairman Paul Oberhauser. “We applaud the law enforcement agencies nationwide that are cracking down on impaired driving and encourage drivers to follow every traffic safety law.”

The advice offered by Oberhauser is obvious, but the number of highway deaths after the Super Bowl makes it equally obvious that his advice often is forgotten: Before the festivities begin, make sure friends know how they are getting home. If you are hosting the party, find creative ways to reward guests for volunteering to be designated drivers. And of course, let a friend stay with you if an alternative isn’t available. Preventing drunk driving is that easy.

The NHTSA also cautions that party hosts can be held liable and prosecuted if someone they served ends up in a drunk driving crash. The federal safety agency suggests hosts stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game and begin serving coffee and dessert. It also recommends keeping phone numbers for local cab companies handy, and taking the keys away from anyone who has had too much to drink.