By Keith Leonard, Esquire
Tailgating is a single word that has two very dissimilar meanings. In one context, tailgating occurs when the driver of a vehicle follows too closely behind another vehicle and the distance between the two is inadequate to avoid a collision if the first vehicle stops. In most years, there are some six million car accidents in the United States alone, or on average approximately an accident every twelve minutes. Tailgating is considered aggressive driving and is illegal in many locations. Some one-third of all rear-end collisions on the roads involve tailgating as the cause. In this context, tailgating causes stress and anger and can lead to further road rage.
On the other hand, tailgating, in the form of food and partying at a stadium before a sporting event, is a tradition enjoyed and held dear by many Americans. With Fall’s arrival and another football season upon us, millions of Americans will be “honoring” that tradition in their own special way.
Some historians trace the modern tailgate idea back to a college football game in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. Of course, at that time, a tailgater did not drive up to the parking lot in a motorized vehicle. Though the introduction of automobiles made it faster to get to a sporting event, the advent of the station wagon after World War II ushered in a new era of tailgating.
More recently, changes in the designs of gas grills (becoming more portable) and coolers (adding wheels) have increased the popularity of tailgating. There is even an association dedicated to the sport of tailgating; the American Tailgaters Association (ATA) – http://atatailgate.ning.com.
According to the ATA more than twenty million Americans – predominately males between the ages of eighteen and forty-four – tailgated in a stadium parking lot sometime during 2006. However, some thirty percent of tailgaters never see the inside of the stadium! Not surprisingly, the leading activities at a tailgating party are some sort of grilling and beverage consumption.
During a football season, the five most-purchased items by tailgaters are (in order) a cooler, a grill, alcohol, furniture, and meat. While there is a game or race inside the stadium, there are games to be played at the tailgate outside the stadium as well. Beer Pong and Flip Cup are two games using beverages as “game pieces,” but there are many others, too.
Of course, how you get to the stadium is another matter; it is difficult to pack up and carry your tailgating equipment on any form of public transportation. In our area of the country, a fair number of recycled school buses, painted the colors of the local professional football team, have been retrofitted for tailgating.
If busing is not your way to go, some websites offer tips on the best tailgating vehicles to take to the game. Among the vehicles cited as being the most tailgater-friendly are the Buick Rendezvous, the Cadillac Escalade, the Chevrolet Avalanche or Equinox, the Dodge Durango, the GMC Envoy, the Honda CR-V or Element, the Lincoln Navigator, the Nissan Titan, and the Pontiac Aztek.
And then you’ll need the special gadgets. The Freedom Grill connects to any two-inch hitch receiver on a vehicle. A Tailgate Table hooks onto the hitch and allows for inside storage of utensils. If the sun and heat are too intense, try the portable awning system called the Tailgater Shade. To go beyond the usual beer and soda, your TailGator Gas-Powered Blender will mix up frozen margaritas and more.
As anyone with a more than a one-drink thirst can attest, you can only “rent” the beverage that you consume. The answer to that problem is the Teepee Portable Restroom which advertises that it can be set up by one person in less than five minutes.
Another byproduct of tailgating is a lot of trash, which can be handled by the Tailgate Trash Can, Cooler and Laundry Hamper. This product can keep your food and beverages cold as you drive to the event and can be used to collect the group’s trash or dirty laundry before you leave. And it can be bought in your favorite major league baseball team’s logo. When you tire, sit on an officially licensed stadium chair or nap on a portable tailgate bench.
There are larger tailgating issues, too. The consumption of alcohol and driving do not mix, and that mixture is certainly frowned upon by law enforcement. In response, some colleges have instituted various tailgating policies. One policy at the University of Northern Iowa requires any function taking place in the parking lots around its stadiums that involve more than twenty-five persons to secure a permit and pay a deposit. If there are no problems with the group, the deposit is returned.
That university is not alone in adopting tailgating policies, and such policies are not limited to colleges. Tailgating at many professional sports stadiums is now subject to various policies. While I am not sure of the effectiveness of implementing such policies, the actions do show an appreciation that such gatherings should remain fun, and also safe, events.
Just writing this article makes me crave a football game, with a cheesesteak and a Yuengling nearby. Please enjoy your tailgating responsibly so we can all be there again for the next event.
Remember that laws are constantly changing and are often not uniform throughout the United States. Do not place unqualified reliance on the information in this article. Always contact legal counsel for detailed advice.
If you have a particular issue, law or problem you would like to see addressed in a future column, please contact me at KLeonard@LeonardSciolla.com, or Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard & Tinari, LLP, 215-567-1530.
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