Indiana’s Lifeline Law – Make Good Decisions
Spring Break is an exciting time for teens, but it can also be very dangerous if young people are engaging in risky behaviors, like excessive drinking. Every 44 hours a college-aged person dies from alcohol poisoning. The truth is one night of binge drinking could end a life.
Alcohol poisoning occurs from drinking too much, too fast. While the best protection against these tragedies is to avoid drinking underage or to excess, we know that young people can make mistakes. What’s more devastating than the amount of young lives lost to alcohol poisoning, is that some of these deaths could have been prevented if someone had simply picked up the phone and made an emergency call for help.
Several states have a Lifeline law, but Indiana has been a leader in identifying and passing legislation due to the hard work of a group of college students. In 2012, students from several state universities organized as a group and approached me about how to pass a Lifeline Law. Their hard work and effort with the legislature was key in getting widespread support within the General Assembly.
The Indiana Lifeline Law gives underage individuals legal immunity from crimes like minor consumption if they call for medical help in an emergency situation. The goal of this law is to make sure no one hesitates to call for help if a friend has had too much to drink because they fear getting arrested. These immunities apply to any person who provides their full name, remains on the scene and cooperates with law enforcement. The law provides the same protections to people who report sexual assaults or other crimes.
College students and parents of students who have died as a result of delayed emergency services continue to have an impact on this important issue. Last year, Indiana legislators expanded the Lifeline Law to address rising drug use as well as alcohol abuse. A new federal health report shows that across the country the rates for heroin-related deaths have tripled since 2010. The Lifeline Law now encourages first responders and law enforcement officers to carry and administer a life-saving antidote that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose, called Naloxone. This effort has already saved countless lives in Indiana.
Now that these protections exist, our focus is on spreading the word. Lives won’t be saved unless young people – first and foremost – make good decisions, but they also need to know about the Lifeline Law and the protections it offers.
My partners and I have worked with high schools and college campuses to make sure students know about the Lifeline Law, and are ready to use it in emergency situations. I also hope that other states will follow Indiana’s lead and create policies similar to the Lifeline Law. While underage drinking is not condoned, it is not worth the loss of a young, precious life.
Death from alcohol poisoning can happen to anybody. Do not let this happen to you or one of your friends.
So whether you are a parent, a sibling, a family member or a friend, spread the word: make the call; save a life.
For more information on Indiana’s Lifeline Law visit www.IndianaLifeline.org.
Gregory Zoeller is the current and 42nd attorney general of the U.S. state of Indiana.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*
Responsibility.org supports the passage and implementation of ‘Lifeline/Good Samaritan’ laws similar to the one described by Attorney General Zoeller. Read our complete policy position here.