by David P. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
The time to get away from school for the annual spring break trip is quickly approaching. While having fun and taking a break from every day activities is the goal of spring break, without some planning and preparation a great week could turn into a disaster that affects you for some time. Whether you are off to the beach or relaxing on a cruise, safety should be a first priority. Enthusiasm of high school and college students to hit the road for spring break is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, many spring breakers fail to recognize that a spring break trip is ripe for accidents, unthinkable events, and the possibility for poor decision making that can lead to arrests and futures ruined.
There is no standard list of do’s and don’ts for spring break. The best advice for being safe on a spring break trip is to use common sense. The problem with this advice is that common sense and students on spring break often do not go hand and hand.
Understand the Effects of Alcohol
Many people automatically assume that spring break safety starts with limiting the number of drinks a day. There is no doubt that the consumption of alcohol plays a large role in safety-related incidents. College students anxiously await spring break and can’t wait to hit the beach with a cold beer in hand. What should not be ignored is that alcohol consumption during spring break must be counteracted with water consumption. Drinking alcohol in the sun and heat causes dehydration more quickly than normal. Students should keep this in mind and remember to make a conscious effort to drink water regularly while out on the beach.
Being on the beach brings another tremendous safety risk. Swimming, whether in the ocean or a pool, can be life threatening for a student making poor decisions. Venturing into the ocean with a conscious disregard of the conditions can be deadly. Even the strongest swimmer can get pulled into a rip current. Do not swim in the ocean alone and pay attention to the warning flags.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Additionally, hundreds of students on the beach also means hundreds of personal items left under umbrellas or beside chairs begging to be stolen. The lack of attention to others roaming the beach around your items invites the less than honest among us the opportunity to swipe bags, phones, cash and credit cards. It is absolutely unsafe for an entire group to go out swimming leaving all personal items unattended. Designate a few group members to sit with your personal items on the beach. This will help protect wallets or phones from getting stolen. Also, this helps prevent beverages from being left unattended so as to hopefully keep someone from slipping a drug into an open drink. Always be cautions and aware of your surroundings, especially when you are in an unfamiliar area.
An interesting fact, according to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, is that they have seen a decrease in arrests of high school and college students in the last three years during spring break. Surprisingly, the number of young juvenile arrests has increased. Parents, often content to relax on the beach or by the pool, let their children venture without supervision. Parents must be cautious of their children’s whereabouts. Middle school and high school students should not be left alone for long periods of time. Parents need to keep tabs on their children. Texting and face-to-face conversations can allow parents information as to their children’s location, companions, and activities. Police are on high alert during spring break to stop underage drinking. Do not let your child roam free without restrictions as this could allow them the opportunity to make bad decisions which could lead to an arrest.
Smart and Safe Drinking
For those cruising or traveling to Mexico, there are more direct safety concerns. Lack of real police control and seeming questionable security, even at well-known resorts, are a recipe for possible disaster. The news of tragic events in Mexico for travelers should make any person wary of possible risks and to be on heightened alert. Everyone, regardless of age, must use caution in every place in Mexico. The stories of drugs being slipped into one’s drink is frightening. Some concern exists that even staff at the resorts could be the ones that seek to harm you. Never set your drink down. It takes less than a second for someone to slip a drug in your drink. Never drink out of a bottle that has already been opened. Although one may jump at the opportunity to have a free drink, you do not know where that drink has been or what is in that. Additionally, stick with your group. Always have a friend with you; this will lessen the chance of something happening to you.
Advice for Homeowners
With the holidays and abundance of holiday parties right around the corner, social hosts need to be aware of how the law affects them when hosting a party, particularly when serving alcohol to their guests.
For homeowners renting to spring breakers, you can almost guarantee the college students will be partying and making a mess during their stay. Most rentals require the renter to be 25 or older. However, that does not always mean the rule will be strictly followed. Drinking and partying on spring break increase the chances of property damage, injury, or theft. The nightly parties pose a threat to disturbance in the neighborhood, particularly if your property is located within a condominium complex. Informing the renters that your property manager will periodically stop by during the week, could potentially reduce any nuisance behavior from your renters. Homeowners should consider raising their rental fee and damage deposit when renting to spring breakers. This will help ensure you will be able to cover any damage that may arise from the typical spring break week.
Spring break is supposed to be a time for fun and relaxation. Use common sense and make good decisions. Be vigilant in watching your surroundings. Make this spring break both fun and safe!
David primarily represents injured workers throughout Alabama in workers’ compensation cases. David has earned an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating in civil practice, personal injury and workers’ compensation. He has been selected as a Super Lawyer (2013-2017) and Top Attorney by Birmingham magazine and B-Metro magazine. David is the immediate past Chairman of the Birmingham Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Section. David serves on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Association for Justice (ALAJ) and is a Sustaining Member of ALAJ. David is a Board Member of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG) and was selected as the recipient of the 2016 Rising Star award by WILG.