People who campaign against drunk driving are very aware of one Super Bowl statistic: Lots of people drink too much and then get in their cars. On Super Bowl Sunday in 2012, 38 percent of U.S. traffic fatalities involved alcohol-impaired drivers. That stat from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is cited by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) as it encourages fans to develop their own game plans for staying safe on Sunday as they leave Super Bowl parties.
WRAP may be best known for its SoberRide program during holiday times, when it gets inebriated people home via free taxi rides when they might otherwise have driven themselves into crashes. But WRAP also makes an educational pitch about how to be smart in your travel habits and celebrate safely.
This includes tips for the hosts and participants at Super Bowl parties.
My favorite party-planning tip, provided by Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of WRAP, concerns the use of designated drivers. He noted that some people misunderstand the definition of “designated driver.” It’s not the least drunk person in your group. It’s the one who pledges to stay away from alcoholic beverages for the evening.
The game-plan element is key to safety. If you are going to join in a Super Bowl party that involves alcohol, take a few moments to figure out how you’re going to get home safely. It may be talking among yourselves to pick the designated driver, but it could also be arranging for a taxi or lift service, or figuring out where the nearest Metrorail station or bus stop is.
There’s another tip from WRAP that I hear from all other traffic safety advocates, because it makes such a difference: Wear your seat belt, whether you are the driver or passenger. This one is for anybody at all who is on the roads Sunday night.
“Wearing a seat belt may not be widely viewed as a tool in this effort, but the wearing of a seat belt may be your best defense against a drunk driver,” Erickson said in a statement about Super Bowl plans. “The bottom line is that the routine wearing of seat belts is the single most effective measure to reduce crash-related deaths and injuries.”
Even you party hosts, who aren’t going anywhere for the evening, can do some important work for traffic safety.
The most obvious tip for party time is not to serve anyone who appears to have had too much already. And you could let everyone know that the bar will close at a certain time — maybe half time. And stay in control: Be the bartender, or designate someone you know who will act responsibly. Don’t let your guests mix their own drinks.
There are several other tips from WRAP that are useful now, as hosts gather supplies for the parties:
Serve food. WRAP notes that high protein foods, such as meat and cheese, stay in the stomach longer, so they slow the body’s rate of alcohol absorption.
If you’re planning to offer some sort of punch with alcohol in it, avoid using carbonated beverages as the base. The body absorbs alcohol faster when mixed with carbonation.
And of course, have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages easily available to the guests. Don’t lean heavily on the tips that involve fine-tuning alcohol absorption.
For those who don’t take seriously the educational tips for party night, there’s always this: You don’t want to find yourself waiting in line at a police checkpoint, as in the photo at the top of this post. Many police agencies participate in the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign, and police efforts this weekend will include heightened patrols, as well as checkpoints.