Robbery and acquaintance rape top the list of crimes committed against college students on spring break trips. “Common sense, however, can prevent many a mishap or crime,” said Donna Minnich Spuhler, assistant dean of students at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). To insure safer trips for students and peace of mind for their parents, Spuhler, with the assistance of NJIT’s Public Safety Department, have put together dos and don’ts for young travelers. “Please take a few minutes to sit down with your college student and go over these simple precautions to insure that they will enjoy a safe and happy trip,” she added.
Safe Travel Essentials
Before leaving residence hall rooms or apartments, unplug small and large appliances, close and lock windows and give friends or relatives clear, easy-to-read travel itineraries. In transit, lock or zip baggage and personal belongings, hold them close to your body and do not leave anything unattended anywhere. Pickpockets abound everywhere. If itineraries changes, email or call in corrections to those back home.
Current passports and/or visas will prevent delays or even cancellations.
Read and understand laws for transporting across borders perfume, food, animals, cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs. Leave home large cash amounts. Purchase traveler’s checks prior to leaving and if you take along credit or ATM cards store with traveler’s checks (and/or cash) in hotel safes. Even small places have them.
Pack enough prescription drugs to last the trip’s length. Water in foreign countries can often cause illness to US residents. Stick with bottled water in restaurants and hotels, even for brushing your teeth. Fruit and vegetables without thick skins that can be peeled should be avoided.
Immigration Laws and Other Necessary Rules
Familiarize yourself with possession of alcoholic beverages in addition to drug laws in and beyond the U.S. Many foreign nations have stricter limits than the U.S. for blood alcohol content levels. Such levels can be used to determine tickets or even arrests for driving under the influence. The penalty for illegal drug use in and outside the U.S. can range from severe to catastrophic. If you must drink, be responsible and within the law and understand the risks.
“Almost all spring break injuries are alcohol related due to intoxication,” cautioned Spuhler. Drinkers should keep bottles and/or glasses in sight. “Stay with bottles featuring caps,” cautions Spuhler. “Keep drinks constantly in sight and, if possible, covers the top opening with your hand. Drinking and driving do not mix: designated drivers should drive if necessary or use public transportation. Err on caution’s side.
Should a group member grow intoxicated, don’t leave her alone. If he passes out and the consciousness level appears too low to get a response, call local emergency services. To prevent choking, make the person sleep on one side. Be mindful that research shows that drinking makes it easier for someone to become either the victim or the perpetrator of a sexual assault.
Protection Against Violence
The best defense against violence is to steer clear of isolated locations and don’t walk alone. Use the buddy system. Never, of course, leave a location with someone you just met. “We tell our students that there is a big difference between making new friends and allowing oneself to be alone with a stranger,” Spuhler said. “Rape drugs exist, so don’t ever accept an open drink from a stranger.” As the evening may progress, don’t invite someone you just met back to your room. If you want to see the person again, make plans in daylight in a public place. Don’t give out personal information beyond a cell phone number about yourself or travel companions. Strangers ought not to know the details of where you are staying. If you are assaulted or a violent commit is committed against you—including rape—notify authorities immediately.
Mindful Behavior in Hotel or Motel Rooms
Always lock your door. Don’t leave behind jewelry, money, electronic equipment or other valuables. Better yet, travel light and leave valuables behind. Emergency information is typically posted on or near the back of room doors. Read the material to learn the locations of emergency exits. Do not climb on balconies or sit on rails. There is no guarantee they are screwed on tightly and falls can be fatal.
Savvy Public Behavior
If you are attending clubs, concerts, new restaurants, any public place, ask for best working exit locations. Sometimes in an emergency the closest exit might not be best, so ask. Steer clear of temporary structures (such as concert scaffolds) which have been known to collapse and fall. Don’t go to a crowded event alone. A helping hand in a crush can mean the difference between life and death if you’ve fallen or been injured. Always carry identification and medical information.
In public places, your attitude matters, so walk, talk, sit, and act with confidence. Don’t ever look lost. There is safety in numbers is true, so stay with friends.