HACKENSACK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the launch of a multi-agency enforcement action termed “The Sobriety Blitz” on Monday, which will see the efforts of the Divisions of Highway Traffic Safety, State Police and Alcoholic Beverage Control combined to help stop drunk driving before, during and after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
With more than 400,000 revelers expected to descend on the area this week, Hoffman said he mobilized the agencies to address drunk and impaired driving because arrest data show Super Bowl Sunday rivals other major holidays for DWI arrests. He said stepped-up patrols and enforcement are the most effective measures for behavioral changes behind the wheel.
“This initiative has enforcement components we believe will help prevent drunk driving and stop those who have already made the dangerous choice of driving while impaired,” Hoffman said. “In other words, we will be playing offense and defense.”
“Many consider Super Bowl Sunday an unofficial holiday – and for good reason. Just like our other major holidays, Super Bowl Sunday is celebrated with friends and family, sometimes at home and sometimes at a favorite bar or restaurant. In those celebrations, many people choose to drink alcohol,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said, on average, police have arrested about the same number of impaired drivers on Super Bowl Sunday as they do on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and July 4th. In the past 10 years, about 1,700 drivers were arrested in New Jersey for driving while impaired on the New Year’s holiday and about 1,500 were arrested on July 4th. Nearly 1,600 were arrested on the day of the Super Bowl during that same span.
What’s more, when there is a New Jersey connection in the big game, DWI arrests spike. In 2012 and 2008, the last two appearances by the Giants in the Super Bowl, 182 and 176 DWI arrests were made, respectively, by New Jersey police. Those numbers are the second and third highest ever recorded on a Super Bowl Sunday in New Jersey. The highest was 183 in 2005.
The Division of Highway Traffic Safety has made available $84,000 to 21 police departments in communities that are in close proximity to MetLife Stadium. Each police department will be able to use the $4,000 grant to increase saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints in their communities from January 28 to February 4. The agencies receiving the grants are: Belleville, Bloomfield, Clifton, East Rutherford, Elmwood Park, The Essex County Sheriff’s Department, Fort Lee, Garfield, Jersey City, Kearny, Linden, Lyndhurst, Montclair, North Bergen, Passaic, Ridgefield Park, Roselle, Rutherford, Springfield, Teaneck and Woodbridge.
“My message to all those who will attend a Super Bowl Party is simply this: Make sure you have a game plan – such as assigning a designated driver before the party begins,” Hoffman said. “Under no circumstances should you drink and drive, even if you have only one drink. It’s not a risk worth taking, and it will put you, your loved ones and others in great danger.”
For three weeks, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and New Jersey State Police have together pursued investigations of 63 licensed establishments throughout northern New Jersey. Investigators from both agencies have been looking for both criminal and administrative offenses, including service to intoxicated and underage drinkers, use of illegal promoters and human trafficking. The ABC and State Police will continue their efforts through Feb. 2.
Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Halfacre said these investigations have yielded 15 arrests for service to underage persons and resulted in the seizure of an illegal firearm, counterfeit money and narcotics paraphernalia. In addition, evidence taken from these establishments will likely lead to administrative charges for major books violations and use of illegal promoters, he said.
“These promoters are of particular concern because they often bring with them undesirable and unruly patrons to their parties, who can cause havoc at bars and restaurants,” Halfacre said. “The intent of these combined efforts is to stop drunk driving before it can start. In many cases, police investigating fatal drunk driving crashes report to us the driver in those tragedies had their last drink at a bar or restaurant.”
Dr. John J. LoCurto, a 30-year veteran of the trauma room and the Chief of Hackensack UMC Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention, attended the announcement to share his first-hand experience with these tragedies.
“HackensackUMC appreciates the combined efforts of numerous agencies that are ramping up efforts to address drunk driving and its consequences, which we unfortunately see all too often,” LoCurto said. “As one of the three official health services providers for Super Bowl XLVIII, HackensackUMC is prepared for all aspects of emergency care up to – and during — the Big Game.”
Hoffman said enforcement actions are not enough to keep drivers safe and sober and that support from the National Football League and the TEAM Coalition, who had representatives on hand at the hospital, would be vital to ensure drivers are responsible.
“We are working very hard to ensure that our fans have a fantastic Super Bowl experience, enjoy the day responsibly, and arrive home safely,” said NFL Director of Strategic Security Programs Ray DiNunzio.
The TEAM Coalition is an alliance of sports, entertainment, media, government and alcoholic beverage organizations that work together to promote responsible drinking and positive fan behavior at sports and entertainment facilities.
“MetLife Stadium has worked with TEAM Coalition since we opened our doors to educate all of our employees and guests about responsible drinking and positive fan behavior,” said Director of MetLife Stadium Guest Services Anne Wheat. “We understand that alcohol management is everyone’s responsibility on game day. Through employee training, alcohol service policy enforcement and recognizing responsible fans through the designated driver program, we are confident that everyone will have a memorable Super Bowl experience for all the right reasons.”
The NFL and the TEAM Coalition have developed and promoted a message of responsible drinking: “Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.” The Division of Highway Traffic Safety has urged chiefs of police in every municipality in New Jersey to display that message in their Variable Messaging Boards through February 3.
State Police Troop B Commander Major Kevin Major Fowler said troopers would be on the lookout for drunk and impaired drivers.
“Residents already know that driving while under the influence is not tolerated on any day of the year in New Jersey, and Super Bowl week is no exception. We want fans to enjoy the game responsibly. We’ll be watching for those who don’t,” said Fowler.
Division of 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.
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