We take sports seriously in the United States. When our favorite teams play, we truly make an event out if it. We have buffets, tailgates, viewing parties and many other types of gatherings to host our friends and families as we root for our favorite athletes. We pay large sums of money for tickets to attend major sporting events.
We also serve and consume a significant amount of alcoholic drinks during the games we’re watching. A study from the University of Minnesota, the results of which were published in Wired, uncovered some amazing statistics when they surveyed fans from 13 Major League Baseball games and three National Football League games. Among the findings were these:
- Around 8 percent of fans that were tested had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit for drivers.
- Almost half of all fans at these events drank alcohol.
- Those under 35 years of age were nine times more likely to leave the event intoxicated, or 14 times more likely to be intoxicated if tailgating is added into the mix.
- As Wired points out, researchers estimate that, based on the samples of the study, more than 5,000 attendees of an NFL game are likely to be legally intoxicated by the time they leave.
It’s important to remember that the statistics above are just for those attending sporting events in person. Now consider how many of us watch games from homes or bars, and how many more drinks are consumed in that setting. Anyway, you get the point – a lot of people drink while watching sports. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. It is also the case that some of the fans who drink alcohol while watching sports then get behind the wheels of their automobiles.
In Texas, where football reigns supreme, the state’s Department of Transportation has taken on the task of raising awareness of drunk driving after major football games. The TxDOT says that there is an increase in the number of DUI’s after some of the most popular programs play a game. There’s good evidence to suggest that this phenomenon isn’t limited to the Lone Star State.
As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, the risk of being involved in a drunk driving crash in California after the Super Bowl is nearly double that of other weekends in the same time period. A University of Toronto study in 2003 actually found a national increase of 41 percent in the number of motor vehicle collisions in the hours that follow the Super Bowl.
There’s no reason to suspect that football – or Texas and California, for that matter – are unique in the correlation between drunk driving and sporting events. In states where other sports are popular, there is likely a similar trend. In my home state of Kentucky, we love basketball, and whenever the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team takes to the court, restaurants around Lexington are crammed full of people taking advantage of drink specials being offered. In other words, this is a problem that likely faces many communities across the country.
Drunk driving crashes are entirely preventable events, meaning that they did not have to happen. We can all play our part to make sure that our friends and family members act responsibly when watching our favorite sports. Here are a few ideas that could help address the problem:
- Designate a driver before the festivities begin.
- Arrange for another form of transportation when planning for the game.
- Stop serving drinks well before the game ends.
- Offer non-alcoholic drinks and plenty of food at your gathering.
Sports are a huge part of our culture and, for many people, enjoying alcoholic beverages is part of what it means to enjoy watching a game. As we head into most of our country’s most popular sports seasons of the year, it is in all of our best interests to make sure that we leave a gathering in the safest way possible.
Julie Butcher is a personal injury attorney in Lexington, KY.