NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An LA Times article published last week called Super Bowl Sunday the 'Super Bowl of drunk driving.' The article said that the chances of being in an alcohol-related car wreck can be as much as double on Super Sunday, stating that there's a 77 percent increase in such crashes in California alone.
It was fitting then for Titans tight end Delanie Walker to spend the entire Super Bowl week in Arizona promoting awareness to prevent drunk driving. Walker is in the third year of a partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
"It was awareness week for me and MADD," said Walker. "We were out there trying to get people to think ahead because we knew there would be a lot of drinking during Super Bowl week. All we want is for people to get home safely."
The relationship with MADD began after Walker's aunt and uncle were killed by a drunk driver following the 2012 Super Bowl in New Orleans. Walker's family was driving from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, La. on the Monday following the game when the accident occurred.
Walker made his rounds through radio row and the Super Bowl village in his attempt to spread awareness about drunk driving.
"I tried to touch bases anywhere I could find people who would listen to what I had to say," he said. "I want to get the word out, and it's a fight we won't give up."
MADD recently created partnerships with the NFL and Uber, but Walker is the only player currently working with the organization. Walker hopes to find other athletes to team up with who have also had their lives impacted by drinking and driving.
One of the main issues with drunk driving is how trivial it becomes in the media with reports of celebrities – often athletes – getting arrested for driving under the influence. What most people don't know are the ramifications that follow a DUI.
That can include (but is not always limited to), an automatic one-year suspension of your driver's license, thousands of dollars in legal fees, thousands more in court fees, community service, and possible jail time.
In Tennessee, a DUI will earn you a required breathalyzer test in order to start your car – another inconvenience and heavy cost to incur.
Walker said that most people will drive drunk upwards of 100 times before ever getting arrested for DUI. It's on everyone to hold themselves, as well as everyone around them accountable for their actions.
"That's a big part of it," he explained. "We expect to go into each week during the season knowing that we can count on everyone. A DUI let's down our organization, not to mention your own family. I hold everyone accountable because it's a senseless decision that can be prevented."
The Titans are one of a few teams that implements a safe ride program offering rides and reimbursing players and team employees for cab fares if they have been drinking. That's thanks in large part to a partnership with Grand Avenue, a Nashville-based car service that allows scheduling for pick up as well as a safe ride home.
"The program that we have with the Titans is one of the best in the NFL," Walker said. "They pay for it all. I don't know if another team or fortune 500 company does that. That's something that needs to be changed. Teams put so much money in these players that it's something the NFL should look into."
Tackling drunk driving is comparable to trying to end world hunger. It's a massive problem that requires endless work in order to see minimal results. That doesn't mean there hasn't been progress. MADD's website reports that the number of drunk driving deaths have been cut in half since the organization's inception in 1980.
Walker isn't naïve to his lofty goals, but that isn't stopping his push for change.
"My goal is to lower all the death rates from drunk driving accidents," he said. "I know that doesn't happen overnight and it takes years to even see a big dent in the percentage, but I'm never going to give up. This is something that hit home with me and my family. Hopefully I can see a change before I die."