Danger on Super Bowl Sunday

Posted: Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl Sunday has become one of the nation's most entertaining national sports events. Many friends in Alaska gather to socialize and watch the big game on a winter day. Here in Alaska, as in other states, this weekend is also becoming one of the most dangerous times to be on the road. Last year 158 people died on our nation's highways over the Super Bowl weekend due to drunk drivers. That was 51 percent of all traffic fatalities for that two-day period. Many who died were innocent travelers and their families.

This high percentage of alcohol-related fatalities is what makes the weekend so dangerous. In the distant past it was common to find half of all traffic deaths attributable to alcohol. However, during the past 15 years this figure has dropped to under 40 percent in most states. Alaska didn't get down to 40 percent until about four years ago and this decrease in deaths was no accident. During the same 15-year time period, victims' groups, legislators and police have all targeted the drunk driver to reduce this consistent carnage. Special prevention and enforcement efforts have been made during holidays like Christmas and New Year's.

Until recently, Super Bowl weekend was not considered a high-risk period, but a review of crashes during this time has shocked traffic safety officials. Alaska loses approximately 100 people a year to automobile crashes and traditionally, half have been alcohol-related. The last four years have brought that number down to under 40 percent, much like the rest of the nation's numbers. However, experts consider the decrease in Alaska to be precarious because of our continued heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages. We still drink over a half gallon of pure alcohol more than the 2.25-gallon national average.

If you do not have to drive this weekend, then don't drive. If you are having guests over for the game, here are some suggestions for a safe Super Bowl party: Designate a sober driver before the game starts. Serve lots of food and nonalcoholic beverages as well as alcohol drinks. Stop serving alcohol after the third quarter. Have cab telephone numbers ready for guests. Check your homeowner's insurance - you may be liable for your guests' post-game accidents.

Matt Felix


National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

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