WASHINGTON – If history is any indication, Super Bowl XXXVIII will end with LXXXVI drunken driving fatalities on the nation’s roads but far fewer, if any, in Maryland, where there have just been III such deaths in IX years.
Put another way, while the nation’s 86 drunken-driving deaths after the 2002 title game made Super Bowl Sunday one of the most dangerous days in the year for drinking and driving, Maryland fans seem to be keeping the party confined to the living room.
From 1994 to 2002, the last year for which traffic fatality statistics are available, there were 10 Super Bowl Sunday traffic deaths in Maryland — and only three of those were alcohol-related.
In fact, when the Baltimore Ravens took the title in 2001, there was not a single drunken-driving fatality in the state.
“That’s good,” said Wendy Hamilton, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “Maybe people in the state are more responsible with their drinking that in other places.”
Some police are not taking chances, however.
Baltimore County will beef up police patrols during the game and late into the evening, said spokesman Bill Toohey. He said county statistics show an increase in drunken drivers and traffic accidents on Super Bowl Sunday.
Toohey said Super Bowl fans should make sure they have a designated driver or should call a cab if they have been drinking.
“On New Year’s Eve people are more aware,” he said. “They have designated drivers. But those practices haven’t taken hold on Super Bowl night yet.”
But Maryland State Police will not put more troopers on the road or set up sobriety checkpoints Sunday, said spokesman Sgt. Thornnie Rouse.
He said the Super Bowl is far behind New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July and Memorial Day weekend in the numbers of drunken drivers on the road.
A Capital News Service analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on fatal accidents supports Rouse: While Maryland has had three fatal drunken-driving accidents on Super Bowl Sundays since 1994, there have been 15 deaths on New Year’ Days in that period and six on Halloweens in the state.
People do not drink as much for the Super Bowl because they have to work on Monday, Rouse said. And because the game takes place in winter, fewer people travel.
“People don’t try to reach the beach on the Super Bowl,” he said.
Rouse, who admits to being a Dallas Cowboys fan, said he expects fewer Super Bowl parties than usual this year because neither the New England Patriots nor the Carolina Panthers have much of a local following.
But Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Joyce Utter is not so sure. She said the county is full of transplants from the Northeast and North Carolina.
Montgomery County police will be on the lookout for drunken drivers and for parties serving alcohol to minors, but there will be no sobriety checkpoints or extra officers on patrol, Utter said.
But MADD said the national numbers are cause for concern and drivers should still be on guard. While 41 percent of highway deaths in 2002 were alcohol-related, the number jumped to 58 percent of the traffic fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday.
Hamilton blames the increase on the volley of snazzy beer commercials during the game, and the culture of knocking back drinks at Super Bowl parties.
“The commercials should have a responsibility message to remind people that this is a product that needs to be consumed in a responsible way,” she said.
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