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As thousands of college students head to Florida to celebrate spring break, a tragic accident in Panama City reminds us that the annual festivities pose real dangers when students drink and get behind the wheel.
In the Panama City accident, an 18-year-old is accused of driving drunk on the evening of March 9 and hitting a scoot car head-on. The scoot car’s 22-year-old driver was thrown from the vehicle and killed, and the 18-year-old is now facing manslaughter charges. Both the driver and the victim had come from Tennessee to Florida to celebrate spring break.
Police said the driver, though not legally old enough to drink, had a blood-alcohol content of .159 percent, nearly twice the legal limit in Florida.
Two of the major dangers that Florida’s motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians face during spring break season are underage drinking and binge drinking.
About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by people underage 21 is in the form of binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC defines binge drinkers as those who drink enough to get their blood-alcohol level to the legal limit of .08 percent. That means consuming a lot of alcohol in a relatively short amount of time – typically five drinks for a man or four drinks for a woman over the course of two hours.
Those binge drinkers are the most likely to drink and drive. In a Harvard School of Public Health study, 58 percent of frequent binge drinkers reported that they drove after drinking. Forty percent of occasional binge drinkers reported drinking and driving, and only 19 percent of non-binge drinkers said they drove after drinking.
For many college students, alcohol consumption is a major spring break activity. So much so that 75 percent of college men and 45 percent of college women in a University of Wisconsin study reported that they got drunk every day on spring break. Half the men and 40 percent of the women said they had passed out from drinking at least once while on spring break.
Here are some tips to prevent a spring break drunk driving accident: