Michael T. French works for the University of Miami and lives in South Florida, so he’s used to seeing tourists around.
He also commutes to work on a motorcycle; occasionally, he said, he spots “a lot of reasons to pause and say, ‘Eh, this is not a person who should be driving.'”
“During the spring break season, it’s especially worrisome,” French told The Post on Thursday. “Because it’s a lot of young people who are engaging in risky activities. So yeah, we see it a lot down here. I guess that’s the price for living in paradise, right?”
French is one of the authors of the study “Fast Times During Spring Breaks: Are Traffic Fatalities Another Consequence?” which was published recently in the journal Economic Inquiry.
His research on traffic deaths in spring break locales indicates that they increase during the period in which college students flock to those destinations.
“The peak risky period is right around the middle of March,” French said, “so we’re actually in the middle of the most risky time for the roadways in hot spots.”
Driving isn’t the only area of concern, of course: In the past few days, two vacationers on spring break in Texas died on South Padre Island; one, a 21-year-old woman, fell from a balcony on the seventh floor of a hotel. Another spring breaker was found dead in a motel pool in Panama City, Fla.; police believe alcohol was a factor in that man’s death, the Panama City News Herald reported.
But driving is of particular concern to public safety officials this time of year, in places that are popular with spring breakers.
“The Florida Highway Patrol wants spring breakers to enjoy their stay in Florida, but we also want them to be responsible so that everyone goes home safely,” Florida Highway Patrol Col. David Brierton said in a statement. “Spring Break is a dangerous and deadly time on Texas roadways,” the state’s transportation department warned.
The study, co-authored by Gulcin Gumus of Florida Atlantic University, looked at fatal crashes in 14 spring break destinations across seven states, including Florida and Texas, along with South Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, California and Nevada.
Researchers found that weekly vehicle fatalities in those locations rose by about 9 percent during spring break. They also found those traffic fatalities more frequently involved out-of-state drivers whose were younger than 25.
The study didn’t find any significant statistical differences between crashes that involved alcohol impairment and those that didn’t, though. That might suggest that maybe the crashes occurred because a driver was tired, distracted, or in an unfamiliar setting, for example.
French and his fellow researchers are planning to study data involving pedestrian fatalities in spring break destinations, which he suspects might show an alcohol effect.