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March 7, 2013

Bill could save young binge drinkers

NORMAN — Too few college students and teenagers realize that binge drinking can be deadly, and many may fail to seek help in an emergency because they’re afraid of getting into trouble. Sen. Cliff Branan authored Senate Bill 1, which was unanimously approved Monday, to help protect young lives. 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.”

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.

Under his bill, Branan said if a person called 911 or the police to help someone who may have alcohol poisoning and stayed with them 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 under age,” 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.

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