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Cooking up burgers on the grill, setting up lawn chairs, and lugging out a cooler of beer from the back of the trunk before a Broncos game is a time-honored tradition in the Denver area.
In fact, Sports Authority Field even opens its stadium parking lot to tailgaters, encouraging fans to deck out their vehicles in blue and orange and rally over beers and brats.


But while celebrating and showing off your team spirit with your friends and fellow fans, it’s important to adhere to safe tailgating practices. Here are a few rules to follow to ensure your tailgating experience is enjoyable and doesn’t end with you in trouble:


Don’t serve alcohol to minors. While you can invite younger friends and family members to tailgate with you, make sure you never serve alcohol to someone under 21. To prevent mishaps, consider bringing multiple coolers—one for sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages, another for beers.


Don’t drink excessively. Decide on the number of drinks you think you should limit yourself to before beginning drinking. Try to set a pace for no more than one drink per hour. Monitor the consumption of your friends and family to ensure they don’t overdo it either.


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Stay hydrated. Consuming alcohol while spending hours in the sun can result in dehydration. Be sure to drink lots of water—at least one glass for every alcoholic beverage consumed— to reduce your chances of becoming ill, and encourage your fellow tailgaters to do the same.


Wear sunscreen. In addition to dehydration, excessive sun exposure can result in sunburn and sun poisoning. Bring along plenty of sunscreen for you, your friends, and your family. And wear your Broncos cap—not only will it express loyalty to your favorite team, it’ll keep you safe from UV rays.


Offer plenty of food. To prevent you and your fellow tailgaters from drinking on an empty stomach and slow the absorption of alcohol into the system, serve foods with plenty of starch and protein—such as burgers, hot dogs, and veggies. Refrain from serving salty foods like peanuts and chips, which can make thirsty tailgaters drink more.


Grill safely. Make sure you give meat plenty of time to cook to kill off any harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure food has reached a safe internal temperature—ground meats should reach a temperature of at least 160 degrees, chicken should reach 180 degrees, and steaks should hit 145 degrees. Store food in a well-insulated cooler, and never eat leftovers that have been sitting out.


Bring a fire extinguisher. Even the most seasoned cooks can make mistakes—particularly after they’ve been drinking in the hot sun. By keeping a fire extinguisher handy, you can prevent a small grilling accident from escalating into a disaster.


Extinguish your coals. Here’s another essential rule for preventing fire—always put out coals completely before heading to the game. This will reduce the chances of tents, banners, and flags catching fire while you’re away.


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Don’t use glass. Stick to cans, plastic bottles, and paper plates. Broken glass is not only tough to clean up, it creates a risk for serious cuts.


Never use drugs. Colorado law prohibits marijuana consumption in public places—and that includes parking lots. Keep you and your fellow tailgaters safe and out of trouble—don’t mix alcohol and drugs.


Practice the buddy system. It’s not advisable to wander alone through large crowds of people who have been drinking heavily. Play it safe by sticking with your friends and keeping an eye on buddies who might have had a little too much. Decide on a spot to meet in the event that you do get separated.


Clean up your trash. Broken bottles, cans, and bags of trash can become dangerous obstacles to drivers as they leave the parking lot. Collect all your trash and dispose of it properly before heading in to the game.


Never drive home drunk. Before tailgating, designate a non-drinking driver to bring you and your friends home. By doing so, you’ll not only keep your friends from getting charged with a DUI, you’ll protect the lives of you and everyone around you.


A surefire way to ruin an otherwise enjoyable tailgating party is to end it by driving home drunk and getting into an accident. Colorado law is tough on DUI cases, and it simply isn’t worth risking harm to yourself and others as well as hefty fines and prison sentences. And if you are charged with a DUI, it’s imperative that you contact a Colorado DUI lawyer. Law officials don’t take drunk driving charges lightly, and you’ll need expert criminal defense to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.


About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.

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