(LOS ANGELES, April 11, 2006) — For many young people, a week away from studies during Spring Break is a rite of passage associated with college life. But for too many, the week involves alcohol and unfamiliar surroundings. For some unsupervised young people, that combination can lead to danger, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
"Students going off to a vacation location for Spring Break need to be watchful and aware to remain safe," said Steven Bloch, PhD, senior research associate for the Auto Club. "If students are underage, they should not drink alcohol. A wonderful travel experience can be ruined if young people put themselves in a situation where they can be harmed."
Law enforcement officials say that alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes and sexual assaults during Spring Break. A study from the University of Wisconsin indicates that 75 percent of college males and 44 percent of college females reported being intoxicated on a daily basis during Spring Break. Another study from Harvard University indicates that 44 percent of all college students binge drink.
"Medical research shows that it takes one hour for the body to absorb one alcoholic beverage. If a person drinks more than that he or she can easily become intoxicated," Bloch said. "In addition to the amount of alcohol consumed, where the drink came from is important. You should never accept an open drink from a stranger. It could be spiked with other drugs making you unable to protect yourself.
"Many young people will travel to Mexico in the next few weeks, and it can be a great vacation if students respect the laws of the country," Bloch said. "Violations involving excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior are taken seriously by Mexican authorities. An arrest in Mexico can be a very difficult and expensive experience."
Most spring breakers will spend some time in a hotel, and by staying aware of their surroundings they can help maintain their safety, according to Bloch. "Always lock the door and don't open it for strangers. If someone claims to be hotel staff, call the front desk to verify," he said. "Use a buddy system. If you leave your room or attend a party, go with a friend and stay together."
The Auto Club also recommends the following travel safety tips:
- Do not carry large quantities of cash. Travelers checks provide personal security and can be replaced. Bank debit and credit cards are the most popular and convenient way to pay on vacation, but guard the cards and card numbers carefully. Canceling lost or stolen credit cards is inconvenient and sometimes difficult on a vacation.
- When traveling to a foreign country, always consult your AAA Travel Agent regarding required travel documents, such as passports, visas, tourist cards and international driver permits. Foreign car insurance may also be required if you are planning to drive. It is a good idea to always carry proof of citizenship, preferably a passport.
- Be watchful of your surroundings. Walk with a sense of purpose, as if you know where you are going. If you get lost, find a police officer or go into a hotel, restaurant or shop and ask for directions.
- Never leave personal belongings like luggage, purses or cameras unattended, even for a minute.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at www.aaa.com.