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Too few college students and teenagers realize binge drinking can be deadly, and many may fail to seek help in an emergency because they’ve been drinking as well and are afraid of getting into trouble. That’s why Sen. Cliff Branan has authored Senate Bill 1, which was approved unanimously on Monday. The measure gives immunity to those who call to get help for a friend who may have alcohol poisoning.
“We’ve had young people in our state go off to college with their whole lives ahead of them, but instead of planning their graduation, their parents have ended up planning their funerals,” said Branan, R-Oklahoma City. “We want to encourage young people to do the right thing and get help for their friends. Senate Bill 1 will help us do that.”
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.
“I know of one incident where the kids did nothing even though their friend had been binge drinking and had passed out—they were too afraid of getting into trouble,” Branan said. “Their inaction had tragic consequences.”
Branan explained under his bill, if a person called 911 or the police in an effort to help someone who may have alcohol poisoning and stayed with their friend until help arrived, they would have immunity from being arrested themselves for drinking.
“Obviously, they cannot have been drinking and driving, but if they are calling 911 or police from a party on campus or somewhere else, and they stay with that person to offer assistance and cooperate with police or other emergency responders, they’re not going to be arrested for drinking, even if they are underage,” Branan said.
SB 1 will next move to the House of Representatives for committee consideration.
“We pride ourselves in being a pro-life, pro-family state—I believe this aligns perfectly with those values by making sure our laws encourage someone to get help in time to save someone’s life,” Branan said. “I hope my colleagues in the House will move quickly to approve this measure so we can get it to the Governor’s desk for her signature.”