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Drinking and Driving in the NFL

Posted in Drunk Driving

Most young men in their twenties and even early thirties are still learning to make wise decisions. One area this is seen is when they get behind the wheel of a car, as insurance companies show us by charging high rates for male drivers in that age range. Young men in the NFL can also be reckless drivers. But when the recklessness involves a young player taking someone else’s life because of drinking and driving, then what responsibility, if any, does the organization bear?

This month, Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent faces a charge of Intoxication Manslaughter for driving while under the influence of alcohol and causing a single car crash which killed his teammate Larry Brown, Jr. Brown’s death represents the third life lost since 1998 through drinking and driving by an NFL player. In Brent’s case, he hit a curb which then flipped the car causing Brown’s demise. It is a troubling issue among young players.

There have been over 600 arrests of NFL players in the past dozen years and 28 percent of the time it was on charges related to drunk or drugged driving. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is the number one criminal offense among NFL athletes. There have been 18 such arrests in 2012 alone. Some point out that while the NFL is loaded with 21-34 year old males, statistically the most dangerous drivers, their rates of DUI are lower than national averages. Still, the behavior among what is considered to be an elite group matters tremendously.

The NFL has made attempts to educate players – especially rookies – about the dangers of drinking out in public. Disciplinary actions have also failed to correct the problem. The player’s union has made private drivers available to all players who feel that they are not in the proper condition to drive. A phone call is all that is needed in order to be picked up and taken home. Concerns about confidentiality have been addressed and no one outside the driving company is ever made aware of who called or how often the call is made. The next suggested step is the use of ignition locks to test breath for alcohol.

At the end of the day, players must do what everyone else must do, and that is to take personal responsibility. These young men are given a lot of money, attention and pressure at an early age. They are also given a lot of help to make wise choices. No one but the players themselves can pick up the phone to call an NFL-provided driver or even a taxicab. But those calls need to be made.