Spring Break is the time when students attending colleges and universities around the world celebrate vacation from classes. It has become recognized as a time in the United States when thousands of young adults flock to beaches and resorts for activities that often cross the line between sun-filled relaxation and non-stop partying without restrictions. The controversy surrounding the Spring Break tradition has grown between the police departments holding the responsibility of maintaining the peace and businesses who want to garner as much income as possible during the approximately six weeks it is in effect.
Arian Campo-Flores wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal titled “Panama City Beach Cracks Down After Spring Break Melee” on April 3, 2015 (Campo-Flores, 2015). He interviewed the people living in Panama City Beach, Florida concerning their response to the rising incidences of violence accompanying Spring Break in the city. Panama City Beach is among a number of coaster destinations for college students during this time, but it is one of the first to take steps to curb dangerous activity taking place. Public intoxication leads to assault, rape, car accidents, vandalism, and other related behaviors in excessive numbers in the days Spring Break is in session. Students use the occasion to binge drink and law enforcement agencies state alcohol is responsible for more than 50 percent of homicides, suicides, and car accidents (Harris County Hospital District, 2015).
Authorities in Panama City Beach imposed curfews, among other measures. Local businesses looking to increase revenue during the yearly event strongly protested the actions, citing the importance of the dollars generated from tourism. The police state the year-long residents of Panama City Beach should not have to tolerate the disruption to their normal lifestyles the illegal behavior creates. The actions proposed and implemented by Panama City Beach and other Spring Break destinations have the goals of decreasing the crime, public defacement, and other problems associated with unrestricting alcohol consumption. While the period of Spring Break is the most crucial time of the year for enforcement, vacationers in other months will also face enforcement of alcohol restrictions.
Campo-Flores’ article states the arrival of more than 300,000 vacationers every spring has increased arrests for drug abuse, firearm possession, fights, and inappropriate alcohol consumption over recent years. Restrictions on ages allowed for drinking alcohol, where drinking in allowed, and the times people can drink in public are aimed and curbing overindulgence spilling out into the public. There is also evidence that certain types of people follow the students to Spring Break locations in order to sell drugs and prey on them when they are intoxicated.
It is important to understand that most of the students coming to Spring Break destinations do not become intoxicated on a regular basis due to the pressures of attending classes, keeping up grades, and participating in extracurricular activities. Ragsdale et al. (2011) conducted a study on female women on Spring Break and found 78 percent were at risk for high use alcohol disorder, but only 25 percent planned to reduce their high use of alcohol and marijuana during the vacation. The binge drinking that takes place during this time in March was discussed by Wechsler and Nelson in the magazine Psychology of Addictive Behaviors (Wechsler & Nelson, 2001). Young people not accustomed to drinking are more susceptible to acting inappropriately by binge drinking. In addition, when the drinking age is 21 years old most college students are underage. This promotes intoxication more easily when they are illegally supplied with alcohol because they are not accustomed to drinking (Wechsler, Lee, Nelson & Kuo, 2002).
Restaurants, bars, hotels, and other businesses protest the restrictions, stating they depend on the revenue generated by the Spring Break vacationers. Employees protest that their jobs are in danger. In March 2013, an estimated $123 million additional was brought in Panama City Beach during that time period. In light of the added money to the income of the city, officials are not suggesting Spring Break activities be banned, only controlled. For example, drinking alcohol on the beach makes supervision by authorities difficult to regulate; if drinking is done on the site of the establishment selling the alcohol, employees have the ability to supervise the amount consumed and report inappropriate behavior. The business still receives the income, but police can be notified if necessary. Also, cutting off the sale of liquor at 2 a.m. rather than 4 a.m. will generally only affect the people who are over-drinking. The hiring of temporary police officers assists in control during Spring Break activities and party-goers recognize illegal activity will not be tolerated. When all Spring Break destinations place restrictions such as these in place, college students will understand behavior that is out of control will not be permitted.
The president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Nicki E. Grossman, sent a letter to Panama City Beach with suggestions using the actions their city took to curb Spring Break problems (Lush & Nelson-Gabriel, 2015). She promotes encouraging visitors that spend more money, enforcing rules against drinking on the beach, changing traffic patterns to decrease cruising activity, and investing in programs that promote safer tourism. Grossman states the image of Fort Lauderdale improved and the money generated by Spring Break increased ten times.
In summary, Panama City Spring Break is an indication of the problems associated with the influx Spring Break festivities, but other cities are also swamped with large numbers of students during this time. Students who normally control their drinking habits may drink inappropriately. The illegal and dangerous behavior that results is a menace to the residents of the area and the students themselves. Law enforcement is required to take the necessary measures to ensure public safety regardless of the impact on local businesses. However, by working with the establishments catering to student drinkers on a year-round basis, the problems that escalate in March every year can be reduced.
Harris County Hospital District. (2012). Spring break ritual could lead to brain damage. Sciencedaily.com. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120312135111.htm
Dr. Alicia Ann Kowalchuk, assistant professor at Department of Family and Community
Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, discusses binge drinking and its consequences,
definition, and importance of parental influence.
Litt, D., Lewis, M., Patrick, M., Rodriguez, L., Neighbors, C., & Kaysen, D. (2013). Spring Break Versus Spring Broken: Predictive Utility of Spring Break Alcohol Intentions and Willingness at Varying Levels of Extremity. Prevention Science, 15(1), 85-93. doi:10.1007/s11121-012-0355-5
The article discusses the impulsive behavior associated with Spring Break as being
unintentional and not premeditated. Its relation to drinking alcohol in low and high levels
Ragsdale, K., Porter, J., Zamboanga, B., St. Lawrence, J., Read-Wahidi, R., & White, A. (2011). High-Risk Drinking Among Female College Drinkers at Two Reporting Intervals: Comparing Spring Break to the 30 Days Prior. Sexuality Research And Social Policy, 9(1), 31-40. doi:10.1007/s13178-011-0071-0
Focusing on female behavior, the article surveyed young women during Spring Break
and found excessive use of alcohol and marijuana without intent to reduce usage during
the vacation period.
Wechsler, H., Lee, J., Nelson, T., & Kuo, M. (2002). Underage College Students' Drinking Behavior, Access to Alcohol, and the Influence of Deterrence Policies: Findings from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Journal of American College Health, 50(5), 223-236. doi:10.1080/07448480209595714
when they do. The article discussed steps being taken to address the issue of underage
drinking and its consequences.
Wechsler, H., & Nelson, T. (2001). Binge drinking and the American college students: What's five drinks?. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 15(4), 287-291. doi:10.1037//0893-164x.15.4.287
Campo-Flores, A. (2015). Panama City Beach Cracks Down After Spring Break Melee. The
Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/panama-city-cracks-down-after-spring-break-melee-1428077027
Harris County Hospital District,. (2015). Spring break ritual could lead to brain damage.
Sciencedaily.com. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from
Litt, D., Lewis, M., Patrick, M., Rodriguez, L., Neighbors, C., & Kaysen, D. (2013). Spring
Break Versus Spring Broken: Predictive Utility of Spring Break Alcohol Intentions and
Willingness at Varying Levels of Extremity. Prev Sci, 15(1), 85-93. doi:10.1007/s11121-
Lush, T., & Nelson-Gabriel, M. (2015). Florida Towns Try to Help Panama City Solve Its Spring
Break Tourist Dilemma. Skift. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from
Ragsdale, K., Porter, J., Zamboanga, B., St. Lawrence, J., Read-Wahidi, R., & White, A. (2011).
High-Risk Drinking Among Female College Drinkers at Two Reporting Intervals:
Comparing Spring Break to the 30 Days Prior. Sexuality Research And Social Policy,
9(1), 31-40. doi:10.1007/s13178-011-0071-0
Wechsler, H., Lee, J., Nelson, T., & Kuo, M. (2002). Underage College Students' Drinking
Behavior, Access to Alcohol, and the Influence of Deterrence Policies: Findings from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Journal of American College Health, 50(5), 223-236. doi:10.1080/07448480209595714
Wechsler, H., & Nelson, T. (2001). Binge drinking and the American college students: What's
five drinks?. Psychology Of Addictive Behaviors, 15(4), 287-291. doi:10.1037//0893-