A new study found that car crash fatalities spike by nearly 10 percent nationally during spring break.
The study, published in Economic Inquiry in March, analyzed 14 spring break hotspots across seven states, including California and Arizona, according to researcher Michael T. French, a health economist and professor at University of Miami.
“There’s been a lot of research done with excessive drinking and risky sexual activity, so we’ve been doing a lot of traffic safety research to see if there’s been a big spike of fatalities during spring break,” French said.
French, along with Florida Atlantic University Assistant professor Gulcin Gumus, said they definitely found a spike. From the last week of February to the first week of April, the most popular six-week period for spring break, there is about a 9 percent increase in the overall death toll of traffic fatalities, according to French.
Kelsie Longerbeam, a California State University, Long Beach sophomore political science major is a representative for SWAT, a spring break event in Havasu. She said that the event offers many opportunities for safe transportation.
“Thank goodness SWAT provides bus transportation to and from Havasu, and shuttle access within Havasu and encourages students to lock their keys inside provided safes,” Longerbeam said. “Or else I feel like there would be a lot more accidents.”
French and Gumus also noted in the study that there was a significantly higher number of traffic fatalities that involved out-of-state drivers than in-state drivers, and fatalities were much more common with drivers younger than 25.
While there is an increase in traffic fatalities during spring break , there was no statistically significant difference involving drivers under the influence and no certain answer for the possible mechanisms, according to the study.
“My students tell me there is a pretty big concern and awareness for dangers of getting a DUI,” French said. “However, pretty much all of them are free to admit that they text and drive all of the time. They also eventually have to drive to get to places when they are fatigued, distracted and unfamiliar with the areas.”
According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a car crash than non-distracted drivers.
The study also found that during the spring break season, there was no increase in traffic fatalities in non-spring break counties in the same states as the spring break counties. This fact is “supporting a true spring break effect,” according to the study.
Ramberto Salcido, an officer for the California Highway Patrol, said he encourages spring breakers to use all of the precautions and services available.
“If you are going to drink, designate a driver,” Salcido said. “Even if you’re not, there are plenty of services [spring breakers] can use for safety…”
French said a solution to suppressing the number of dangerous distracted drivers is for city agencies and travel companies to administer vouchers for ride sharing services, taxis and public transportation in spring break vacation packages.
French said that these incentives to persuade spring breakers to ditch their cars and use safer transportation could make a difference in saving a life this spring break.