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Throwing a Super Bowl Party? Make Sure Your Guests Drive Home Safe and Sober

If you are planning to throw a Super Bowl Party on Sunday, February 3, remember that a truly great host makes sure the gathering includes a number of designated drivers, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Tens of millions of Americans will watch on television as the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. But the day of the big game is also one of the most dangerous days to be on the road as too many impaired drivers make their way home after the party. Contributing to the inherent dangers of drinking and driving are the relatively late starting time of the football game (after 6 p.m., ET) and the fact that the contest goes on for hours, with even West Coast party goers returning home long after the sun has set.

The most recent figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dating back to the 2006 Super Bowl, indicate that 130 people died in the U.S. over that weekend in crashes involving impaired drivers with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of .08 or higher Every state and the District of Columbia has lowered the limit defining drunk driving to 0.08, although a death is considered alcohol-related when any person involved in the accident had some measure of alcohol in his or her blood, even if it was below the legal limit. Alcohol was involved in 41 percent of all auto crash fatalities in 2006, with 17,602 Americans dying that year in alcohol-related accidents.

Young men?ages 21 to 34 years old?are the core audience for major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and are the most likely to drive while impaired, according to NHSTA. They are also the most likely to drive fast and not wear their seat belts.

"Those throwing a party where alcohol is served have both a legal and moral responsibility to make sure that their guests are capable of driving safely,? said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. ?You don't want to allow anyone who has been drinking to drive home and possibly kill or injure themselves or others on the road."

Thirty-five states have enacted laws or have case law that hold social hosts liable if they serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes that result in injury or death, according to the I.I.I.

With the rise of citizen activist groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the 1990s, society has increasingly little tolerance for drinking and driving. Existing drunk driving laws have been strengthened and penalties increased.

?Those convicted of drunk driving can also face huge increases in their auto insurance rates, which can more than double,? noted Salvatore. ?Some insurers may also refuse to insure drivers with a history of impaired driving.?

Fatigue is another potential problem. In fact, NHTSA reports that drowsy drivers caused more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.

?A tired driver is quite simply not a safe driver,? said Salvatore. ?And with the roads being more dangerous than usual on Sunday February 3, drivers need to be especially vigilant and cautious.?

If you are planning to host a party, the I.I.I. suggests the following:

  • When entertaining guests be responsible yourself. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be able to determine if a guest is able to drive at the end of the night and have the ability to convince them to not get behind the wheel of a car.
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Provide plenty of tempting non-alcoholic beverages, and food for guests.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And, never serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor at least one hour before the party is over and switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.

If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or insist that they sleep at your home.

For more information on preventing drinking and driving, go to MADD at http://www.MADD.org .

For additional information about insurance, go to the I.I.I. Web site at http://www.iii.org .

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

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