Fatal Car Accidents Spike at Spring Break Spots

MARCH 24, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor
For many students, spring break invokes thoughts of the beach, sunny weather, and relaxation. But for researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami, it signals a spike in fatal car accidents.

Their study of 14 popular spring break destinations in the United States shows that passenger vehicle fatalities are significantly higher in spring break counties when comparing the season to other weeks in the year, and also when comparing the counties to other communities where spring breakers are less likely to visit.

The authors determined that the time period for most spring breaks fell between the last week of February and the first week of April. The examined areas included Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Palms Springs, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. The researchers used data on passenger vehicle fatalities from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1982 to 2011.

Their findings showed that the weekly number of traffic fatalities in spring break counties was 9.1% higher during the spring break season compared with other times of the year, translating to 16 more fatalities in all 14 counties during the 6-week season in any given year.

Having an out-of-state license and being aged ≤25 years were 2 characteristics especially associated with passenger vehicle fatalities. Despite what some might think, however, the researchers found few differences between traffic fatalities involving alcohol impairment and those without it.

Considering that students are more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are in a spring break environment, the study authors surmised that spring break can lead to an increase in traffic fatalities rates overall. In other words, it’s not just that students are traveling to areas where there are more crashes due to a larger population and traffic congestion.

“Given the relatively small number of [spring break] hotspots in the country where at-risk students are grouped together for only a few weeks each year, enforcement of traffic and alcohol policies at these destinations can be enhanced and intensified in an effort to save lives,” the researchers concluded.

The authors also advised local officials in the 14 spring break counties to consider providing free public transportation vouchers to students with a college ID during the spring break season.