As far back as 2003, a study of U.S. collision data performed by University of Toronto researchers uncovered a 41% increase in motor vehicle collisions in the hours following the Super Bowl. The study compared data from 27 Super Bowl Sundays with that of the Sundays preceding and following the big game from 1975 to 2001. The first hour immediately following the Super Bowl was the worst, with the collision rate jumping 70%. There was a 10% drop in the collision rate during the game itself, presumably because far fewer people were on the road on that time.
The study, subsequently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that the largest surges in the collision rate occurred in the home states of the losing team, where the number of crashes increased 68% after the telecast ended, while collisions rose only 6% in the winner’s state. Collisions climbed an average of 46% in “neutral” states.
The average number of people killed in crashes after the Super Bowl was 24, up from 17 on the comparison Sundays. Likewise, the number of people injured in automobile collisions jumped to 1,900 from 1,300, and the number of crashes topped 4,000, up from nearly 3,000.
The researchers theorized that drinking during the game, driver fatigue because of the late hour, and distraction and disappointment among drivers whose teams lost all contributed to the rise in collisions. “We think that it may be alcohol and fatigue and inattention, and in particular the sort of what-if conjectures and Monday morning quarterbacking that occurs” after the loss, said Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, a professor of medicine who also works at Canada’s largest trauma center.
Even those fans who don’t drink during or after the game pose a risk to themselves and others once they hit the road because of the distraction factor. “If you’re replaying things in your head, you’re not paying attention” to your driving, said Stephanie Faul, spokeswoman for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The Nevada Department for Transport (www.nevadadot.com) offers the following Super Bowl safe driving tips based on guidance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
If you’re attending a Super Bowl party or watching the game at a sports bar or restaurant:
- Designate your sober driver before the party begins.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast. Pace yourself.
- Eat plenty of food, take breaks, and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.
- If you don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home; call a cab, friend, or family member to come and get you; or stay where you are for the night and don’t drive until you are sober.
- Utilize a free sober ride program.
- Never let friends drive drunk. Arrange a safe way for them to get home.
- Always buckle up. It’s still your best defense against drunk drivers on the road.
If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party:
- Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange ride-sharing with sober drivers.
- Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages at the party.
- Host your party just like they do at the stadium. Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game. The fourth quarter is perfect for serving coffee and dessert.
- Keep the phone numbers of local cab companies on hand and take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving drunk.
Supporters should also be cautious about winter driving. When you add the possibility of winter storms to all the other risk factors, the driving environment at the time of Super Bowl becomes even more dangerous.
Enjoy the game and if you have to travel at the end of it, please drive diligently and avoid the risks of distraction, drink, drugs, drowsiness and disappointment!