Two people were arrested on Super Bowl Sunday for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Increased patrol was a part of the state’s Avoid the 8 program, which sets up DUI checkpoints during weekends with an expectation of a higher number of drunk drivers.
During a six-hour period, the taskforce of nine officers patrolled Yolo County. Officers conducted 42 traffic stops. Of those stops six field sobriety tests were administered, one vehicle was impounded and two people were found driving without valid licenses.
According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2008, fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes accounted for 32 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities. On Super Bowl Sunday 2008, 49 percent of the fatalities occurred in crashes where a driver or motorcycle rider had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher.
Statewide, 11 people were killed Super Bowl Sunday in 2009 and another 133 were injured in alcohol-involved collisions. This figure is three times the daily average killed in California with alcohol as a factor, and those injured were over twice the daily average.
Rod A. Rifredi, Traffic Sergeant for the Davis Police Department, said this year’s Super Bowl weekend was mellow compared to other years.
“We didn’t have many problems with intoxication this year,” Rifredi said. “I think we’re getting the message across that drunk driving is not going to be tolerated. People are either finding alternatives or not traveling far to watch the game.”
Chris Cochran, Assistant Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, said funding more programs to prevent alcohol related driving issues has made a real difference in the last few years.
Davis Police Chief Landy Black expressed the importance of designated drivers before the Super Bowl began.
“We want to pass our safety message to everyone who will be drinking this weekend, Real Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk,” Chief Black said in a press release, referring to the community slogan. “Please act responsibly, designate a sober driver before the Super Bowl party begins and leave your car keys at home.”
William Aiken, Internet Publicist for the drunk driving prevention advocacy group Remove Intoxicated Drivers, said police departments should not announce the saturation periods to the public in advance.
“When you compare the regions that announced they were increasing police presence during these weekends, you find that there are less drunk drivers found in these areas,” Aiken said. “It’s better for people not to know, so they will not change their normal behavior for just one weekend.”
Aiken also believes that even though there is higher alcohol consumption, this does not necessarily equate to a higher number of drunk drivers during this weekend.
Funding for Avoid the 8 program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The program has been running since 1973, and other weekends that have increased enforcement include Halloween, the Fourth of July, Labor Day weekend, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.