Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk is the next stop for legislation meant to encourage underage drinkers to call for help if one of their friends becomes unresponsive. Senate Bill 1, by Sen. Cliff Branan and Rep. Mike Jackson, was given final passage with a unanimous Senate vote on Tuesday. Branan said the measure would protect an individual from being charged for underage drinking if they call for help for a friend who may have consumed lethal amounts of alcohol.
“As a father, and as a senator, I do not condone underage drinking—but we know it happens. I personally know a family whose child died from alcohol poisoning after binge drinking while away at college,” said Branan, R-Oklahoma City. “His friends were afraid that if they called 911, they would end up getting in trouble, either with the law, their parents, or their college for underage drinking. They didn’t call anyone, and the young man died. We don’t want that to happen again.”
Binge drinking is defined as rapidly consuming five or more drinks in a row. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by young adults under the age of 21 in this country is in the form of binge drinking. Consuming too many drinks can result in alcohol poisoning, a condition that can cause brain damage or death unless the individual receives prompt medical attention.
“If this becomes law, I believe it will help prevent deaths by encouraging young people to seek help for a friend who may have alcohol poisoning,” said Jackson, R-Enid. “Young people can be intimidated by the repercussions, but when you are talking about drinking so much alcohol that can cause permanent brain damage or death, we want to encourage them to get help for their friend before it’s too late.”
Branan explained under the provisions of SB 1, if a person calls 911 to help someone who may have alcohol poisoning and stays with the friend until help arrives, the caller would be protected from being arrested for underage drinking.
“This could happen to anyone’s child. It could be an honor student or a stand-out athlete who never gave their parents grief, but made an immature, foolish decision to binge drink,” Branan said. “I cannot imagine knowing that someone could have saved your child’s life, but was too afraid to help. I believe if SB 1 becomes law, it will save lives.”