Beating the risks of spring break celebration

“Wash your hands frequently and get plenty of rest,” over break advises Whitman County public health director


White sandy beaches, free laundry service and all-you-can-eat home cooking. These delights and more might await WSU students as they prepare for a week of solace and excitement during spring break.

But the chance at fun and relaxation is only half the journey. First, students have to get to wherever they’re going safely.

Safe traveling

Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health, said he recommends traveling students pay attention to the road and drive safely.

“You’ve got a greater risk of dying in a car crash traveling than you do from COVID-19 at this point,” Henderson said.

Dialing a number while driving multiplies the risk of an accident by six, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website

Students should avoid texting while driving, Henderson said.

Many students will drive over a mountain pass such as Snoqualmie Pass on the way home. Snow and ice played a role in almost 500,000 crashes and 2,000 deaths every winter, according to research by the American Auto Association Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Driving slower, staying farther back from the next car and being aware of the vehicle’s brakes can help reduce the risk of an accident, according to AAA.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends all air travelers allow more time for security than they think is necessary.

An email sent to all WSU students advises students to refer to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for air travel as far as protecting oneself from diseases.


There are a few ways people can reduce their risk of becoming infected, Henderson said.

“Wash your hands frequently and get plenty of rest,” he said.

Avoiding large social gatherings can also reduce the risk of infection, Henderson said. This is especially true if a person is already sick.

Henderson said if a student knows someone who has COVID-19 that it is important to respect the social isolation that health officials recommend for people who show symptoms of the disease. 

Governor Jay Inslee banned gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, which Henderson said will help reduce the spread of disease. 

The CDC recommends people traveling by plane avoid contact with other passengers who may be sick, according to the CDC website.

Responsible drinking 

“With a lot of college students, something that’s really popular is mixed drinks,” graduate student Brianne Posey said. “So they go to parties and there’s jungle juice … and it’s got like 6 different types of alcohol in it. If you’re trying to keep track of your drinks, stay away from mixed drinks.”

A 2019 study of spring breakers in Ft. Lauderdale, one of the most popular vacation spots, showed that 83 percent of women felt there was more drinking than there typically was on campus. Fifty percent of men reported drinking every single night until they passed out compared with 40 percent of women.

“We call it potentiation, it’s like this mathematical formula of 1+1 is greater than two,” researcher Patricia Maarhuis said. “It’s really hard to gauge how your body will respond. What we know is that people are impaired, there’s a higher risk of blackout especially with the combination of alcohol and cannabis.”

Spring break is also notorious for increased instances of sexual assault. Estimates suggest that at least half are linked with alcohol use.

“Women have been changing their behaviors for millennia and it hasn’t worked,” Maarhuis said.  “The primary responsibility is with the person who’s intent on perpetrating. The rule is [that] a person should be able to be bare-a– naked, walking through a bar, stumbling drunk, and no one touches them.”