New Law protects underage drinkers in danger - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

New Law protects underage drinkers in danger

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SOUTH BEND - The CDC says alcohol poisoning is linked to more than 4,300 deaths each year. And that's just among drinkers under 21.

Law enforcement says most of those deaths could have been prevented, but weren't, simply because friends were too afraid to call for help.
"No one should die because you're afraid to get help," said South Bend Youth Service Bureau Executive Director Bonnie Stryker. That's the philosophy behind Indiana's new Lifeline Law. It protects underage drinkers from getting into trouble if they try to et help for a friend who might ave alcohol poisoning. YSB helped champion the new law. Stryker says the law doesn't encourage underage drinking - but acknowledges that young people make mistakes - and that those mistakes can be deadly.

"It's still wrong when you're under 21," said Stryker. "But if you see someone who's in trouble, call. Get help. Save their life."

So what does law enforcement think?

"It's a really good thing," said South Bend Police Department Captain Phil Trent. he urges minors not hesitate calling for help if they see someone in danger.

"This person really should get some help," said Trent, describing a hypothetical scene of an underage drinker suffering from alcohol poisoning. "They really need to go to a hospital. Or they really need an ambulance come take care of this person. But let's not. Let's not do that. That's something this person might have to live with for the rest of their life."

For an underage drinker to take advantage of the Lifeline Law, they need to do three things:
  1. Call 9-1-1 for help.
  2. STAY with the victim until medical assistance arrives.
  3. Cooperate with law enforcement authorities. That means answering questions honestly about what happened that night.
If underage drinkers comply with all three steps, Trent says they won't face any repercussions for breaking the law.

Indiana state legislators passed the Lifeline Law last year. It officially took affect on July 1.
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