Super Bowl Sunday is coming right up, and the San Francisco Bay Area is hosting the event for only the second time in the big game’s fifty-year history. Of course, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers are not the only teams busily preparing right now for the big game. Law enforcement agencies – and not just in the state of California, but across the United States – will be aggressively enforcing drunk driving laws in every part of the country with extra patrol units, additional DUI checkpoints, and more traffic stops and arrests for driving under the influence. Your chance of being pulled over for suspicion of DUI is almost double on Super Bowl Sunday compared to a more typical Sunday evening in February. So are your chances of being injured in an accident with an impaired driver.

Every year on the day of the Super Bowl, the number of intoxicated drivers on California’s streets and highways goes up, and so does the danger. In 2012, for example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that alcohol was the key factor in 43 percent of the traffic deaths on Super Bowl Sunday and the following morning. On Super Bowl Sundays, alcohol-related crashes in the Los Angeles area go up by 60 percent, and in San Diego, the figure is a 117 percent increase, according to the Auto Club of Southern California.

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HOW DANGEROUS IS SUPER BOWL SUNDAY?

In recent years, drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday has become a growing public safety concern, and especially in California. Here’s why. On the ten Super Bowl Sundays from 2002 through 2011, 642 alcohol-related fatal crashes happened in California, according to the Auto Club of Southern California figures. If those Sundays had been routine Sundays, 276 fewer deadly alcohol-related collisions would have occurred. “In other words, 28 more alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes occur annually in California due to drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday” That’s what Auto Club researcher Steve Bloch tells the Los Angeles Times.

In California in 2012, 803 died in alcohol-related traffic collisions. That’s more than two fatalities a day. Thousands more were seriously injured. More than 172,000 drivers were charged with driving under the influence in California in 2012. Every year, DUI is the most frequently-charged crime in the state. The statistics tell us that when you drive or ride as a passenger in California, an intoxicated driver is probably on the road with you, and that probability doubles on Super Bowl Sundays. If you are injured by an impaired driver, it’s imperative to see a good personal injury lawyer at once. If you are injured by an impaired driver in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, or anywhere else in the San Francisco Bay Area, discuss the accident, your injury or injuries, and your legal rights and options – which might include a personal injury lawsuit – as quickly as possible with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

In every state, a driver is legally intoxicated if that driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures at or above 0.08 percent. Yes, drunk drivers face serious criminal charges when they injure other people, but drunk drivers may also be sued for personal injury damages. If you’re injured by an impaired driver, discuss the case with a personal injury attorney. If you have a personal injury claim and you choose to move forward with that claim, a good personal injury lawyer will handle it for you and negotiate aggressively on your behalf. Your attorney – and the other side’s attorney or attorneys – will reach a satisfactory settlement out of court, or your attorney will take your claim to a trial jury. The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, but if your case goes to a trial, your lawyer will explain your story to the jurors and fight diligently for the compensation and justice you need.

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HOW CAN YOU STAY SAFE ON GAME DAY?

Always, your safety and the safety of your loved ones is a top priority. In 2012, more than 10,000 people died in the United States in alcohol-related traffic accidents. That’s almost one death every 51 minutes. With even more impaired drivers on the road for Super Bowl Sunday, consider these four basic safety precautions if you must drive on the day of the big game:

  1. You may not be drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday, but others will, so be certain to buckle up. Prior to game day, check your tire pressure and inspect your windshield wipers, your brakes, and all of your lights. If you drive on Super Bowl Sunday, you need all of the safety tools you can get.
  2. Always look in your mirrors – and into the distance – as well as directly in front of you when you drive. Always be aware that you are in the middle of constantly-changing conditions. Try to maintain enough distance between your vehicle and other vehicles so that you can stop or swerve away to avoid trouble.
  3. Never allow yourself to be distracted when you drive. Avoid eating take-out food, applying make-up, or talking or texting on the cell phone. In fact, turn the phone off. Pull off the road if you need to take a closer look at a GPS device or a map. And – it goes without saying – never drink and drive for any reason or under any circumstances.
  4. If you see road rage, absolutely avoid it. Drive away and out of the way, and do what it takes to protect yourself and your passengers. Take no chances. If you see dangerous driving or violence, do not hesitate to report it to 9-1-1.

Accident victims injured by negligent drivers, including victims injured by drunk drivers, have the right under California personal injury laws to receive full compensation for all of their medical care, for their days lost from work, and for all of their additional injury-related damages and losses. You’ll have to prove that you were injured and that the other driver was negligent, and you’ll need the legal advice and services of a good personal injury attorney, but if you have been seriously injured and the other driver failed a DUI test or is convicted of DUI, in most cases your personal injury claim will have a good chance of succeeding.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE INJURED?

After an accident, immediately seek medical attention. Don’t find an excuse to avoid seeing a doctor. Your life and your health are your most important possessions. If you’ve been injured because of a drunk driver’s negligence, you must establish and maintain medical records of your injury and follow your doctor’s orders. Another reason you must seek immediate medical treatment is because if you don’t, and you file a personal injury claim, the defendant may charge that your injury happened elsewhere or that you really weren’t injured at all. If brain and spinal injuries are not immediately detected and treated, sometimes those injuries can remain latent and emerge months later as serious medical problems. If your injury is disabling, catastrophic, or permanent, you’ll need the maximum compensation that’s available, and you’ll need an attorney who knows what it takes to win that compensation on your behalf.

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At the scene of an accident, try to remain calm and to think rationally, because you must take several steps immediately. Obtain medical treatment first for yourself and for anyone else injured in the crash. Call the police and arrange to obtain a copy of the accident report. Get the name of the other driver and that driver’s contact and insurance information. Also get names and contact information from any eyewitnesses. Finally, take as many photos as you can of the accident site, the vehicles, and your visible injuries. Photographs can be compelling evidence in a personal injury case.

No one is immune from the tragedies associated with intoxicated driving – not even the stars of the Super Bowl themselves. In 2013, after playing in the Super Bowl in New Orleans for the 49ers (who were defeated that day by the Baltimore Ravens), tight end Delanie Walker learned – only hours after the game – that his aunt and uncle who had watched from the stands, Bryan and Alice Young, were killed on their way home by an allegedly impaired driver. Walker works now in the offseason to educate others and to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

If you drive on Super Bowl Sunday or on any other day in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can and should take proper safety precautions. Inevitably, of course, there’s no final, certain way to keep a drunk driver from injuring you and your passengers, but if it happens, legal help is available. If you are injured by a drunk driver – anywhere in the country – take your case immediately to a good personal injury attorney. Witnesses forget details quickly, and. evidence can deteriorate or even disappear, so you must act promptly. If you are injured by a drunk driver on Super Bowl Sunday or on any other day of the year, speak immediately with a good personal injury lawyer, and in the San Francisco Bay area, speak at once with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.