Spring Break Driving Tips

Car AccidentIf your college kid is driving out of state for spring break, there is a 10% greater chance that (s)he could be in a fatal car accident.  Be sure that (s)he knows these driver safety tips first.

Recently, professors Michael French of the University of Miami and Gulcin Gumus of Florida Atlantic University published a study that took at look at various spring break hotspots around the U.S. and compared the number of traffic fatalities that occurred during spring break against the number of traffic fatalities that occurred during the rest of the year. They looked at different age groups, driver’s license statuses, and whether or not alcohol played a role in these fatal car crashes. Ultimately, the study concluded that traffic deaths occurred at a much higher rate – nearly 10% higher – during spring break than at any other time during the year.

You wouldn’t be crazy if you thought that the increase in traffic fatalities during spring break was due to drunk driving.  Throw a bunch of unsupervised 20-somethings onto the beach with a limitless supply of booze and bad things are bound to happen, right?

Obviously, some of these young spring breakers are going to make bad life decisions that they’ll regret later, but this study actually found that drunk driving had little statistical effect on the relative number of traffic fatalities that occurred during spring break peak periods.

So what’s the problem?  It turns out that age and familiarity with the area could be more of a factor.  While Professors French and Gumus’ study found that alcohol had little effect on the number of traffic fatalities during spring break, their study did find that spring break traffic fatalities more frequently involved out-of-state drivers who were younger than 25In other words, young drivers who have no idea where they’re going.

One of the most difficult things about being a parent is accepting that there are some things you can’t control and that you can’t change.  But if you’re sending your college kids off to spring break this season, please go over these simple driving tips with them before they’re off. It could save their life.

  1. Don’t Drive Drunk: Sometimes it’s not enough to tell your know-it-all 20-something that drunk driving is bad. Maybe if you tell them that drunk driving accounts for a third of all traffic deaths, then maybe, just maybe they’ll listen.  For good measure, you should also throw in the fact that, at a .03 blood alcohol level, the risk of a person crashing increases by 20% compared to a sober person.  At .05 BAC, the crash risk doubles.  And at .10 BAC, the crash risk increases to 5.5 times that of a sober driver.
  2. Don’t Speed: Yes, speeding is also bad. Speeding accounts for another 1/3 of all traffic deaths per year.
  3. Don’t Text and Drive: In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. An additional 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012, a 9% increase from the year before.
  4. Don’t Drive Drowsy: Pull over. Switch drivers. Rest. Drink some coffee. Stretch.
  5. Wear Your Seat Belt: Yes, people have survived nasty car crashes while they weren’t wearing their seat belt. But the odds are against it. Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half. And while air bags provide added protection, they are not a substitute for seat belts. Best case scenario: air bag + seat belt.
  6. Don’t Follow Too Closely: Three second rule. When you’re driving behind someone, find a light post. Wait for the car in front of you to pass it. Count 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi. If you don’t make it to “3-Mississippi” before you pass the same light post, you’re following too closely.
  7. Watch Out for the Other Guy: Somewhere out there, there’s some guy driving drunk while texting who hasn’t slept in a while speeding down the road. Watch out for that guy. Don’t be afraid to call 911. Pull over and call anonymously. Not cool? You know what’s not cool? Letting that guy kill a family or himself because you didn’t want to call the cops.
  8. Practice Defensive Driving: Ultimately, you have to protect yourself. Stay alert, watch your mirrors, keep a safe distance, and be ready to react if you have to.
  9. Keep Your Car Maintained: Especially your tires.

Spring break is here. As a Denver personal injury lawyer, I have seen firsthand the devastation that losing a loved one to a traffic accident can wreak upon a family.  If you have college-aged kids driving out-of-state this spring break, go over these basic safe driving tips with them. It could save their lives.

Related: What to do if you’re in a car accident, Denver DUI Victims and Stoned Driving