With the year 12 school exams finishing on Wednesday, high school leavers are gearing up to let off some serious steam in the form of Schoolies Week -- a rite of passage for teens as they leave the secondary system and prepare to enter the working world or study further at university.
While the Gold Coast has long been a popular destination for Aussie schoolies, more and more are choosing to spend the somewhat infamous holiday abroad. Unleashed Travel, Australia’s leading provider of overseas travel packages for school leavers, has seen a 98 percent increase in bookings for Schoolies Europe trips and a 56 percent increase in adventure-themed Schoolies trips since last year.
While fun is the name of the game, there's an obvious danger that comes with new found freedom when it's coupled with alcohol and adventurous activities. Travel insurers won't pay out for incidents that involve irresponsible actions, so school leavers need to be made aware of what might jeopardise their good time.
Competitive drinking (skulling, or beer bongs)
"Competitive drinking is a reasonably obvious one -- it’s a bad idea for inexperienced drinkers to participate in things like skulling or beer bongs because they don’t know their limits," Jot Lynas, Managing Director of Unleashed Travel told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Young people are very influenced by their peers and competition only enhances that. Any instance where someone is pressured, coached and cheered into drinking more than they normally would at a faster pace is risky activity. The risks associated with competitive drinking are intoxication, dehydration, alcohol poisoning and impaired judgement when making decisions."
Riding or being a passenger on a motorcycle without a helmet
"During Schoolies Week, riding on a motorbike or moped even with a helmet is dangerous. Not wearing a helmet is even worse, and the statistics during Schoolies speaks for itself. Not only is it a huge risk to rider and passenger but also other people on the road," Lynas said.
Engaging with "Toolies"
Toolies is a term used to describe an older person who attends Schoolies Week to join in on the fun, though some have a sinister motive.
"Schoolies (17 and 18 year olds) are in the same mindset -- they’ve just finished school, they’re the same age and they have had the same experiences. As soon as you mix in older people, there’s an increased risk. Schoolies is not a place for Toolies and often an older person is there for the wrong reasons, like to solicit drugs or have sex with a younger person. They’re also often there to start trouble, whether that’s through starting fights or antagonising Schoolies. When you look at the data over Schoolies, Toolies are at fault for many of the fights and issues," Lynas said.
Base jumping or tombstoning
Extreme activities can go bad at the best of times.
"Of course there are obvious risks such as parachutes not opening and tombstoning in places that aren’t safe, but as soon as inexperience, alcohol and peer pressure is in the mix, accidents happen," Lynas said.
Partying on balconies
Balconies are a risk at schoolies and at any house party in general.
"People often sit on the balcony rails to make room for more people because it is quite a confined space. Older properties have lower railing and it’s even more of a danger -- accidents do happen and people do fall off.
The other thing that Schoolies do is try and walk from one balcony to another to get to the next room which is obviously very dangerous. Then other Schoolies see this happening and mimic the same behaviour -- it is a recipe for disaster," Lynas said.
Sampling exotic home brewed spirits
A good example of home brewed spirits is in Bali.
"Sometimes travellers don’t know that their cocktail has methanol in it. My advice is if you don’t know what’s in it, don’t drink it. When you’re in a foreign place always go for something that is pre-sealed or failing that, something you see getting made.
There are huge dangers with these home brewed spirits which include sickness, going blind and serious internal injuries, or worse," Lynas said.
Getting behind the wheel when you don’t know the road rules (or under the influence)
Every country has different road rules so if you want to drive, make sure you have a licence to drive in that country or an international licence.
"So many Schoolies don’t know that you need an international driver's licence in Bali to ride a motorcycle. If the police pull you over, you will have a fine to pay otherwise you will have to bribe them.
What makes it worse is getting behind the wheel while under the influence, or getting in a car with passengers that are drunk, which can be distracting. While it might seem harmless, Schoolies can ruin their lives if they have an accident -- they’re not just risking an injury, they’re also risking jail time and manslaughter charges," Lynas said.