Your ride is likely to be at the center of this year’s football celebrations. It’s exciting — but it can also be nerve-wracking when you consider all that tailgating involves, including crowds, drinks, outdoor cooking, alcohol, and bubbling-hot cheese.
With that in mind, here are some tailgating safety tips to help keep you, your vehicle, and your loved ones safe during football season.
Keep an Eye on the Food
While the quarterback might be the star of the game, the food is the star of your tailgating extravaganza. However, that culinary star can fade fast if you don’t follow recommendations for proper food handling.
At your next football tailgate, keep snacks fresh with these food safety tips collected from the Partnership for Food Safety Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
1. Keep perishable foods in an insulated cooler.
Use a couple of inches of ice or cold packs to keep everything cool. Remember that raw items like hamburger meat and brats should be kept at or below 40 degrees. If you’re not sure what the temperature inside your cooler is, invest in an appliance thermometer to keep a gauge on things. It’s a lot cheaper than a trip to the doctor.
2. Store drinks and food in separate coolers.
People will likely reach for the drinks more often than they will for your grilling ingredients! By keeping the drinks and food apart, the latter will stay cold because it won’t be exposed to the elements every time someone grabs a soda.
3. Keep hot stuff in its own cooler.
If you’ve warmed up some goodies at home, stick them in an insulated container so that they stay hot while you’re tailgating. If you picked up hot food from a restaurant, eat it within two hours of buying it, so it doesn’t go bad. Refrain from putting warm food in the cooler with perishable items, as it will heat up everything else.
4. Don’t let raw meat or fresh produce sit out for long.
Generally speaking, these items shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for over two hours. If they are, it’s safest to throw them out. However, rather than testing that time threshold, it’s best to put uncooked perishables away as soon as all plates are served. Additionally, don’t forget to put fixings and condiments like cheese and mayo back in the cooler quickly.
5. Grill meat to the recommended temperature.
Pack a meat thermometer so you can check the temperature before anyone digs in. Real Simple has a great temperature guide you can use for reference.
6. Prevent contamination by using clean utensils and platters.
Never put cooked food on plates that held raw meat, poultry, or seafood, and avoid using or eating with the same utensils you used for cooking.
7. When in doubt, toss it out.
If you’re not sure whether certain items have been left out for more than two hours, don’t eat them! You could risk catching yucky a foodborne illness that’ll leave you benched for the next few games. If you want to keep leftovers for later in the week, bring airtight containers to re-pack your snacks.
Pay Attention to Hygiene
Follow these tips to avoid being tackled by germs.
1. Wash your hands.
Warm water, soap, and 20 seconds worth of scrubbing is the best combo for squeaky clean hands.
If you don’t anticipate having access to a sink, pack antibacterial gel and wipes! But remember to wash your hands whenever you can — hand sanitizer and wipes aren’t as effective as soap and warm water.
3. Don’t forget to sanitize eating surfaces, too!
Eating with clean hands off a dirty table pretty much defeats the purpose of that antibacterial gel. Wipe tables down with disinfecting wipes or put down a plastic tablecloth before serving food on them.
Guard the Grill
The grill is an essential piece of equipment at a tailgating get-together. To ensure grill safety, follow these outdoor cooking safety practices.
1. Back it off!
Keep the grill at a safe distance away from any flammable objects such as cars, loose clothing, and tents. A good rule of thumb is to place it at least six feet away from other objects. (Make sure to keep people and pets away from it, too)
2. Don’t leave it unattended.
A distraction can mean overcooked patties, or worse — grease fires! Keep an eye on the grill to keep the food and other tailgaters safe.
Practice Personal Safety
Tailgating is all fun and games — until it’s not. Keep these tips in mind to ensure you, your family, and your friends stay safe.
1. Monitor the weather forecast.
Double-check if there’s a chance of rain or inclement weather so you can pack accordingly, or even plan an at-home watch party! If you do decide to drive despite the rain, use these tips to help you navigate wet roads.
2. Pack wisely.
We all wish slip-ups didn’t happen, but when they inevitably do, we also wish we would’ve planned ahead. Expect (and pack for) the unexpected. For your next tailgate, pack a first aid kit, blankets, and a fire extinguisher — just in case!
3. Take care of yourself.
Whether you’re at a late-summer tailgate under the blazing sun or weathering the winds at a mid-fall game — make sure you take care of your body. That means staying hydrated at all times and being diligent about using and reapplying sunscreen!
4. If you see something, say something.
Keep tabs on your surroundings, and report suspicious activities, packages, or people when you spot them.
5. Develop an exit strategy.
In case of an emergency, you’ll need to get out of harm’s way as quickly as possible, says the American Red Cross. When you go to a tailgate or any other event with large crowds, notice your emergency exit options, considering that the way you came in may not be the best way to go out. It’s also a good idea for you and your loved ones to agree on a meeting point, just in case you get separated.
Protect Your Belongings
You’re probably ignoring your vehicle when you’re busy grilling and gabbing, but thieves definitely aren’t! Lock your car when you’re away from it, and stash valuable items where they can’t be spotted.
Robbers take advantage of distracted tailgaters to break into or steal cars. As reported by NBC Washington, it takes thieves as little as 30 seconds to break into, rummage through, and steal things from your car. So, don’t let them catch you off guard — not even for a timeout!
Most tailgates involve adult beverages. If you choose to partake in them, steer clear of the steering wheel. There are plenty of tailgating opportunities in one season, which means you and your friends can’t take turns being the designated driver.
Drunk driving is illegal and can cause injury or death. It can also lead to thousands of dollars in fines and attorney fees, considerable hikes in your insurance rates, and the loss of your driver’s license!
Gear Up for the Road
You might get there at the tail end of the tailgate — or miss it entirely — if your truck breaks down. Here are a few things to check before leaving the house:
1. Research road conditions ahead of time.
Trust us, a little research can save you a lot of time. It can help you avoid road closures, traffic accidents, and inclement weather!
2. Fuel up and power up!
Set your truck up for success by making sure it has enough gas to get to and from the stadium. Additionally, double-check that your car isn’t showing signs of a failing battery. Getting stranded with a full tank and an empty stomach is the last thing you want when you’re en route to your tailgate!
3. Avoid “deflategate.”
Don’t let your truck get suspended by improper tire inflation! Air pressure in tires is almost (if not more important) than it is in football — it improves vehicle handling and fuel efficiency, and helps prevent uneven wear. Check your tire pressure while you’re filling up with gas. Your tire pressure should match your manufacturer’s recommendation, which can be found in your driver’s manual or in the driver’s side door jamb. Or, find your recommended tire pressure online.
4. Address suspected car issues.
You can steer clear of common tailgating mishaps with these tips for tailgating safely, but car problems don’t wait till the fourth quarter ends! When your vehicle fumbles, stop by your local Tires Plus for a Courtesy Check, we’ve got your back—and your engine!