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.
Drinkers Who Binge Most Likely to Drive
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.
Preventing Drunk Driving Accidents
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:
- Don’t drink, and don’t ride with a drunk driver. Mothers Against Drunk Driving urges teens to say no to alcohol and refuse to get into a car with someone who has been drinking. MADD has developed a program called the “Power of You(th)” to empower teens to say no to alcohol.
- Don’t drive if you’ve had anything at all to drink – even if you think your judgment isn’t impaired.
- Don’t let your friends drive if they have been drinking.
- Leave your car parked somewhere for all of spring break.
- Before you go out, plan how you’re going to get back to your hotel safely, whether that means walking, taking a cab or choosing a designated driver.
- For parents visiting Florida with their teens: Set a good example by not drinking and driving yourself. Talk to your teenagers about the dangers of underage drinking, know where they are, and don’t let them drive with friends.