Officials warn Super Bowl fans not to drink and drive

Staff Writer
Donaldsonville Chief

With this year's Super Bowl being held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, one of the nation's favorite tourist cities, safety officials are urging football fans across Louisiana to avoid drinking and driving.

"Visitors and residents alike need to keep in mind that driving under the influence is highly dangerous and accounts for a large percentage of crash deaths in Louisiana and nationwide," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "We want everyone to enjoy the game and the events surrounding it, but do not get behind the wheel if you've been drinking."

In 2011, alcohol was a factor in 41 percent of all traffic deaths in Louisiana and 31 percent nationwide in 2010. Alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes is higher on weekends and during evening hours.

Officials also warn that 93 pedestrians were killed in 2011, accounting for almost 14 percent of all the state's traffic fatalities. Alcohol is also a factor in many pedestrian deaths. High numbers of pedestrians are expected be present in areas stretching from the Superdome to the French Quarter in days leading up to the Super Bowl and on game day.

Louisiana Super Bowl celebrations will not be limited to New Orleans, with thousands of football fans enjoying the game at bars, restaurants and parties in private homes.

"These celebrations often include alcohol, so it's important for hosts to be responsible and take steps to avoid any of their guests driving home while under the influence," LeBlanc said.

Using the theme, Fans Don't Let Fans Drive Drunk, the Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are spreading the word concerning Super Bowl safety. The two organizations offer the following Super Bowl safety tips.

If you are participating in Super Bowl activities in New Orleans:

· Keep in mind that there will be thousands of pedestrians around the Superdome and throughout downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. Drivers need to watch out for pedestrians, and pedestrians need to watch out for vehicles.

· Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. Traffic will be especially heavy along routes to and from the Superdome.

If you are watching the game at a party or other venue away from home:

· Avoid drinking too much alcohol too rapidly. Pace yourself—eat enough food, take breaks and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.

· Designate your sober driver before the party begins and leave your keys at home if you plan to drink.

· Always remember, Fans Don't Let Fans Drive Drunk. Take the keys and never let friends leave your sight if you think they are about to drive while impaired.

· If you have been drinking, don't even think about getting behind the wheel. 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, and sleep it off until you are sober.

If you are hosting a Super Bowl party:

· Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers before kick-off or help arrange ride-sharing with others who are not drinking.

· Keep the phone numbers of local cab companies handy, and remove the keys from anyone who is thinking of driving while impaired.

· Serve lots of food and be sure to include non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks, juice and water.

· Quit serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game and begin serving coffee or dessert.

Motorists should also keep in mind that Louisiana law requires all vehicle occupants to wear a seatbelt whether they are in the front or back seat. A fastened seat belt is one of the best defenses a motorist can have if involved in a crash.