Super Bowl Sunday won’t just be football, food, and fun -- or enough heartbreak to last until opening day for the Yankees or Mets.
Historically, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most dangerous days of the year to be driving, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa reminded New Jerseyans Thursday.
In 2008, the last time the New York Giants played in the Super Bowl, police in New Jersey arrested 176 drunken drivers, the second highest total ever in New Jersey on a Super Bowl Sunday.
And during the last five Super Bowls, there has been only one alcohol-related crash fatality in New Jersey. That tragedy occurred the same night the Giants lifted the Lombardi Trophy in 2008. In 2001, the Giants’ previous Super Bowl appearance, five people died as a result of alcohol-related crashes.
“As police patrols have increased on Super Bowl Sunday, arrests have gone up and, thankfully, deaths have declined,” Chiesa said. “During the last four Super Bowls, with stepped-up patrols, there have not been any deaths due to drunken drivers on our roadways. Let’s continue that trend and ensure Sunday is a day remembered for Super Bowl glory, not tragedy. I urge fans who drink to have a sober designated driver to get them home safely.”
Chiesa noted the effectiveness of the HERO campaign, which promotes the use of sober designated drivers to prevent drunken driving tragedies. The campaign was launched by the Elliott family in August of 2000 in memory of their son John, who was killed by a drunken driver at the age of 22.
Attorney General Chiesa issued a “two minute warning” to fans.
“My two-minute warning to all those who will attend a Super Bowl party is simply this: Take two minutes to select a designated driver before the party begins,” Chiesa said.
State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said there would be approximately 100 extra patrols around the state targeting drunk drivers on Sunday.
"After the big game is over, there will be two clear cut groups: Winners and Losers,” Fuentes said. “The winners will be those who use designated drivers to get home, and the losers will just roll the dice. The MVP of the game will be those heroes who choose not to drink in order to get their friends home safely."
Dr. John J. LoCurto, chief of HackensackUMC Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention Section, recounted the consequences of drunk driving during his 28 years of experience as a trauma surgeon.
“Alcohol related crashes can be classified as the unrecognized healthcare epidemic that is killing and crippling members of our society on a daily basis,” LoCurto said. “This epidemic is 100 percent curable if common sense and responsibility are practiced by everyone. Simply put - don’t drink and drive. “
Former New York Giants wide receiver and Super Bowl XXV champion Stephen “The Touchdown Maker” Baker announced that the National Football League had a record 175,000 fans pledge to be designated drivers this season. Baker also said the NFL’s sober driving message “Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk” would be displayed on the state Department of Transportation’s roadside message signs from Friday to Sunday.
State Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky offered the public some vital tips on how to enjoy the big game responsibly:
• Designate a sober driver before the party begins and give that person your car keys.
• Consider using a taxi cab or car service, or ask a sober family member or friend to come and get you, or spend the night where you are.
• Report impaired drivers in New Jersey by dialing #77. You’ll be asked to provide the location and a brief description of the vehicle.
• If you’re intoxicated and traveling on foot, the safest way to get home is to take a cab or have a sober friend or family member drive or escort you to your doorstep.
For those individuals hosting a party:
• Make sure there’s ample food and non-alcoholic beverages available.
• Stop serving alcohol at the beginning of the third quarter of the game. Instead, offer guests coffee and dessert.
• Be sure that all guests have designated their drivers in advance, or help to arrange ride-sharing with sober drivers.
• Have the phone number of a local cab company available, and always take the keys away from anyone who may be thinking of driving after drinking.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM