With spring break comes more car accidents. Northwest Florida Daily News reports that the countdown to spring break 2015 has begun. In just a few weeks, our quiet beaches will transform into party central as college students from around the country arrive ready to party. While everyone wants young people to have a good time, we want them to stay safe. Most young people think nothing will ever happen to them, but every year there are reports of arrests, injuries and even deaths while students are on spring break and consuming alcohol. Also, with this huge influx of young partiers and revelers, comes reckless driving and an increase in auto accidents. Sheriff’s deputies in Walton and Okaloosa counties plan to greet the college students with a polite smile and a firm zero tolerance for underage drinking. “We’re going to have spotters on the boardwalks,” said Catherine Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re going to have deputies walking within the crowds.” Both agencies said they plan to continue their 2014 crackdown on everything from rowdy behavior and crowd control to littering and drunk driving. “Our message to spring breakers is we want them to enjoy the wonderful things our area has to offer, but expect them to do so in a lawful, safe, and respectful manner,” said Nicole Wagner, spokeswoman for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. Wagner said the OCSO won’t be expanding its spring break coverage but will use a combination of beach, marine and traffic patrols to keep visitors safe.
If you are injured in a car accident while on Spring Break in Fort Walton Beach, Destin, or Sandestin, contact the attorneys at Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation.
In both counties, the focus will be on curbing underage possession of alcohol – a violation that can quickly lead to other crimes because of impaired judgment. In Walton County, anyone over 18 who’s caught underage drinking will be taken to the jail in DeFuniak Springs and will have to post a bail of $350. “You’re going to suffer the consequences,” Rodriguez said. Deputies also face the challenge of controlling large and sometimes unruly crowds, particularly in the event of medical emergencies. The first of many college spring breaks begin as early as February 23rd and last through the end of March. “March is more concentrated with college students,” Rodriguez said. “April is more concentrated with high school.” The heaviest traffic coincides with the spring breaks of colleges and universities across Florida and nearby Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama, she added.
So what can you do if you are a spring breaker, traveling to our area for spring break. Safespringbreak.org gives students some important tips on driving:
On the go . . .
- Take turns behind the wheel. Rotating drivers can keep everyone rested with the added bonus of taking turns deciding on the music.
- Whoever sits shotgun should stay awake to keep the driver company. Two alert drivers are always better than one.
- Make sure everyone has a valid driver’s license and the vehicle registration and proof of insurance are in the car before driving off.
- Take a map. These days everyone relies on their phones for navigation, but in some places, where service isn’t strong, you can lose that ability. Having a map is always a nice backup plan when on a road trip. There are just plain old maps. Do a search for the city you are travelling to. There are a number of apps on Google Play and in the App Store that don’t require an internet connection or GPS.
- Never leave valuables in plain view in your car. Lock items in your trunk before reaching your destination.
- If you are hailing a taxi, ask ahead for a typical price. If there is no meter, you must negotiate the fee before you agree to the ride. The front desk of your hotel is a great resource to tell you how much a ride should cost.
- Before leaving your hotel, take a card from the front desk with the name of the hotel, phone number, and address, just in case you need help getting back. Also, put this information in your phone to be extra sure you have it.
- Calling a taxi is a better bet than hailing one. And at the airport, always use approved taxi services. Ignore people who approach you offering rides.
- All genuine taxis will have some sort of ID or badge. You can check for this before accepting a ride.
- Stay alert during any taxi, Uber, Lyft, etc. rides. Follow along on google maps or a navigation service, if you can, to ensure they are taking you the right direction.
- Keep your belongings together during a ride to ensure you don’t leave anything behind.
- If you ever feel unsafe, it is completely within your rights to abandon a taxi or any other ride service at a safe stop. Leave money behind on the seat and get out of there if you don’t feel safe.
- When using Uber or Lyft, you will see the driver’s name, license plate number, and photo on your phone when you request the ride. Check for a match when you ride arrives to be sure you are getting in the right car.
- Never get in a car with someone you suspect is intoxicated. There is always a safer alternative.
- If you are going to carry a backpack, consider getting a small lock for your zipper and keep the key in your pocket. Another theft reduction is to carry your backpack on your front instead of your back in crowded areas.
CBS News gives additional tips to assist students in avoiding incidents that could result in someone getting hurt:
1. Don’t be stupid in the ocean.
If you are going to be swimming in the ocean, do you even know what rip currents and rip tides are? These strong currents can quickly carry you out to sea if you aren’t careful and how you swim out of these currents is counterintuitive. Talk to a lifeguard about swimming conditions before getting in the water.
2. Protect your location on social media sites.
Sharing too much information on your location on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare may endanger your safety. Adjust your privacy settings and use your best judgment when checking in on Facebook and Foursquare. Be cautious about revealing personal information and location through status updates or tweets.
3. Create a code word.
Create a secret signal or code word to let your friends know when you are uncomfortable and need them to intervene. When you are with friends, arrive together and leave together. Establish a place to meet in advance if you get separated.
4. Don’t drink in a hot tub.
Forget about all those MTV videos that makes drinking look essential for a hot-tub experience. Alcohol can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. The effects of drinking are felt faster and stronger if you’re sitting in a hot tub.
5. Practice safe drinking.
Never leave your drink unattended. If you lose sight of it, order a new one. Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust.
6. Tan safely.
To prepare for a beach destination, opt for spray tanning or self-tanning instead of a tanning bed. The risk of skin cancer is too great to spend time at a tanning salon.
7. Don’t stay on the first floor.
Avoid first-floor hotel rooms because they are bigger targets for thieves. If you bring your laptop, keep it in a hotel safe.
8. Carry phone numbers and cash.
On spring break, carry emergency cash and the phone numbers of cab companies. Keep in your wallet the address of the hotel or rental property that you are staying at.
9. Consider an alternative spring break.
Many schools and religious organizations offer alternative spring break options, including networking retreats and community service trips. Choosing one of these alternatives should make your parents happy