The Real Lowdown On Spring Break Safety

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Brittanee Drexel was last seen on April 25th, 2009 in Myrtle Beach when she left the Bar Harbor Hotel to meet friends at a nearby resort.

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She never returned from that spring break trip, which ended, according to a jailhouse confession reported by The Huffington Post, by being dumped in an alligator pit. In 2014, engineering student Reny Jose left his beach house in Panama City, FL, during a spring break trip. He never returned, though his clothes and personal items were found stashed in a trash can nearby, according to the Troy Record.

But thousands and thousands of students go away every year, have a fun time, and come back no worse for wear. So how dangerous is spring break, really?

Thomas & Pearl, Injury Lawyers, a firm based in Florida, claims that “Thousands of people—many of them in full-on party mode … descending upon new and often unfamiliar cities can be a recipe for accidental injuries.” They say a University of Miami study found significant increases in traffic accidents in popular spring break destinations: fatalities rose 9.1 percent; more fatalities involved out-of-state drivers; more of those fatal accidents involved drivers under age 25 than over it.

Author Michael T. French said to The Washington Post that traffic risks get worse at the same times that the numbers of spring breakers rise. “The peak risky period is right around the middle of March,” he said.

Then there are the alcohol-related deaths — not necessarily by alcohol poisoning. My Panhandle reports that Tyler Douglas Gilmore, age 20, died in Panama City as a result of falling off a multi-story parking garage. He had been drinking all day. South Carolina’s WISTV says that in 2010, 19-year-old Christopher Grasso survived a fall from a Daytona Beach hotel balcony. Alcohol, even students admit, played a role.

Matt James, 17-year-old headed to Notre Dame was “pretty belligerent” and drunk when he plunged to his death from a balcony in Panama City Beach, FL in 2010, says ABC News; on March 24 of the same year, in the same city, Brandon Kohler of Winder, GA, died when he plunged from a different balcony. In fact, type in “spring break balcony death” into Google and there’s no shortage of hits.

[Staying in a strange area? Check out our Security Tips For Parking Lots And Parking Garages.]

Alcohol poisoning is another concern. A recent study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that while many college students often binge drink, that number skyrockets over spring break. As noted at Skywood Recovery, men drank an average of 18 drinks a day on spring break, and women about 10 drinks. About 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women drank until they either threw up or blacked out.

Dr. Eric Collins, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating addiction, told Forbes, “Binge drinking is probably one the most concerning of all activities that college students engage in while on spring break.” And while there are no spring break specific numbers, every year “thousands of kids are injured and 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.”

And with excess alcohol consumption comes an increased probability of sexual assault. An American Medical Association poll of spring break girls found that 57 percent saw promiscuity as a way to fit in, according to iMom. The same poll found 20 percent regretted the sex they engaged in during break and 12 percent felt “forced or pressured” into sex.

Spring break isn’t necessarily going to be trouble for everyone, but considering the mass inebriation among college students, it certainly isn’t the safest environment, either. Check out our tips on how to stay safe over spring break. And maybe do some volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity instead of downing crappy beer in Panama City this year.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on Time.com.

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