The Real Lowdown On Spring Break Safety

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Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated Jan 29, 2024
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Jan 29, 2024

Every year, myriads of students go away to have fun, let loose, and party on spring break. Memories are made, friends and strangers bond, and they all go home with a story or two to tell their peers.

Spring break isn’t all beaches and sunshine though. We’ve all heard the horror stories about spring breaks gone awry. For example, Brittanee Drexel was last seen on April 25th, 2009 in Myrtle Beach when she left her hotel to meet friends at a nearby resort. Sadly, she never returned.1 A few years later, a similar case happened when Remy Jose left his beach house in Panama City, Florida during a spring break trip. He also never returned, but his clothes and personal items were found in a trash bin nearby.

Those horror stories paint a picture of a potentially dangerous annual tradition that thousands of young people continue to partake in, but is spring break really that dangerous?

The Dangers of Spring Break: Myth or Fact?

Personal injury lawyers from Florida-based firm Thomas & Pearl2 claim 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.” According to Thomas & Pearl, 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, and most of those fatal accidents involved drivers under age 25. In the same vein, author Michael T. French said to The Washington Post3 that traffic risks worsen at the same time that the number of spring breakers rise. “The peak risky period is right around the middle of March,” he said.

Those facts tell us that the spring break season is a peak season for injury and accidents, but that spring break isn’t necessarily to blame. Rather, it’s whatever that goes down during spring break. So before we give you some safety tips, let’s look at common causes of accidents, injuries, and death during spring break.

Alcohol-Related Deaths and Injuries

Consuming too much alcohol is bad for our health. We all know that. Beyond its long-term effect on our body, though, being under the influence of alcohol can cause serious injury or death not just to whoever’s drinking it but also to the people around them.

  • Tyler Douglas Gilmore: 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.
  • Christopher Grasso: Similarly, South Carolina’s WISTV said that in 2010, 19 year old Christopher Grasso fell from a Daytona Beach hotel balcony, although he survived, thankfully.
  • Matt James: 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.4
  • Brandon Kohler: 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. It’s hard to believe that alcohol didn’t play a role in these accidents, although it wasn’t the direct cause.

As for accidents caused directly by alcohol, look up drunk driving incidents in popular spring break destinations. It all connects – young people flock into popular destinations to party and have a good time. With alcohol involved, it only takes a matter of time until a drunk driving incident occurs.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is another concern. A recent study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that while many college students binge drink often, that number skyrockets over spring break. As noted at Skywood Recovery, men drink an average of 18 drinks a day on spring break and women about 10 drinks. Even worse, about 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women drink until they either throw up or black 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, throughout the year “thousands of kids are injured and 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.”

Sexual Assault

And with excess alcohol consumption comes an increased probability of sexual assault. An American Medical Association poll of women on spring break found that 57 percent saw promiscuity as a way to fit in. The same poll found that 20 percent of the respondents regretted the sex that 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.

How To Stay Safe on Spring Break

You don’t have to be a statistic; there are ways to enjoy spring break safely. While this list is by no means comprehensive, we did come up with a few easy ways you can increase your safety over spring break.

  • Ride-share safely: Be sure to check the license plate of the Uber or Lyft before you enter, as we’ve seen many people undergo violence after entering the wrong car. For extra safety, share the details of your trip with a friend or family member in the Uber or Lyft apps. That way, they’ll be able to see your location during the ride.
  • Stay in safe areas: Did you know that, in the U.S, Louisiana, Missouri and New Mexico have the highest murder rates? While we can’t tell you to avoid these states completely, research your vacation destination’s crime rates before booking your hotel.
  • Date safely: Spring break can be a time of short-lived romance, but it’s important to keep safety in mind while dating. We recommend not consuming alcohol on dates, and choosing to meet in a public space. We also recommend letting a friend know of your date and location, the same tactic that we recommend for ride-sharing apps.

Fun and safety don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By staying vigilant about your personal safety and the safety of your friends, you can have a spring break that’s equal parts fun and safe.

  1. Huff Post. (2017). Missing Spring Breaker Was Raped, Shot And Fed To Alligators, FBI Agent Testifies.

  2. Thomas & Pearl. (2017). Florida, Spring Breakers, and Unfortunate Accidents.

  3. Washington Post. (2015). Here’s your annual reminder to be careful on spring break.

  4. ABC News. (2010). Spring Break Teen Tragedy: How Safe Are Your Children?