Kent police and health officials talk safety precautions for spring break.

Gabrielle Gentile

University Health Services kicked off Safe Spring Break Week on Monday at the Student Center with its annual student outreach event.

The Office of Health Promotions teamed up with Kent State Police Services to educate students on high-risk behaviors and the dangers of drinking and using drugs on spring break.

Community Resource Officer Tricia Knoles said her main concern with spring break is always for the safety and well-being of the students.

“The main goal of this week is to educate our students about all the safety issues associated with spring break,” Knoles said. “From the dangers and risks involved with drinking alcohol and drinking and driving, to how much alcohol their body can really handle before they get into an alcohol poisoning situation, our goal is educate students now so they can make smart decisions later.”

Knoles encourages students to be conscious of their surroundings and know how much alcohol they are consuming. Knowles said a lot of times students don’t understand that alcohol content varies based on the type of drink. Students drinking a Long Island Iced Tea may think they are only consuming one drink, but because the alcohol content in that one drink is so much higher than a standard drink, you are really consuming between three to four drinks.

Sarah Minarik, Office of University Health Promotion intern, said students tend to get swept up in the moment of spring break and don’t realize how much alcohol they are consuming.

“It’s so important that students are educated on alcohol content of their drinks and the effects of alcohol,” Minarik said. “The portions of what one drink actually is, is a lot smaller than a lot of people realize. During spring break people choose to get really out of control and rowdy, especially college students, so we are promoting being safe, taking precautions and planning in advance.”

To help drive home their message of being conscious of alcohol consumption, Kent State Police Services encouraged students passing by to try on their Fatal Vision goggles. Anyone who tried on the goggles was able to walk the sobriety line and get an understanding of how impaired a person can become when under the influence of alcohol.

Following the goggle exercise, students were directed to a chart, which visually explained how drinks vary in alcohol content and how quickly they could reach the legal limit.

Based on the blood alcohol level (BAL) chart, Knoles gave the example that a 140-pound woman who drinks two standard drinks an hour has a BAL of .07.

“Students need to make a conscious decision to be aware of alcohol and drug use together,”  Knoles said. “Whether it is a beach party or club, students need to make that conscious decision of when I get there and if I decide to drink, I am only going to have one or two drinks. Unfortunately, a lot of times people just don’t make good decisions because they are consuming alcohol or they get to a party and they don’t realize how much alcohol they are drinking because they are binge drinking and it does not hit them until an hour later and by that time it’s too late.”

Minarik said she hopes Safe Spring Break Week can help prepare students before they leave with the resources they need to have fun and be safe.

“I think a lot of people succumb to peer pressure in party atmospheres,” Minarik said. “People think spring break is the time to get really rowdy because everyone is doing it and everyone is drinking and getting caught up in the moment, but a lot of times what ends up happening is they aren’t thinking through their decisions before acting on them. With Safe Spring Break Week, we want to educate students about the dangers and be a reminder to always be thinking and trying to make good decisions.”

Sarah Cahn, a senior fashion merchandising major, is traveling to Washington D.C. this spring break to attend a wine and cheese festival.  While she won’t be on the beach partying, Cahn said she has seen first hand how dangerous alcohol can be.

“I think health and safety is a big cause for concern on spring break,” Cahn said. “A lot of students don’t take care of themselves because they are more concerned with partying and letting loose. This can be drinking too much, not applying sunscreen, having unprotected sex and just being involved in risky situations.”

In addition to providing students with information on alcohol consumption, BAL, alcohol poisoning, drinking and driving and free condoms and hookup kits, University Health Services hosted free confidential HIV testing Tuesday.

Mallory Parkard, Office of University Health Promotion intern, said HIV is a particular cause for concern because you don’t show symptoms right away, so you may be HIV positive and not even know it.

“I really encourage the HIV testing,” Parkard said. “You may not know you are HIV positive before spring break. If you have sex with someone different it becomes a chain reaction and it spreads from person to person very quickly over Spring Break. The test is confidential; the only person that sees you is the clinician performing the test. It takes about a half hour and you will leave with your results.”

Gabrielle Gentile is a student health reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]