911 Lifeline Legislation – Call for Help

The message from TABC and Aware, Awake, Alive is simple: If you think they need help, they need help.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) is partnering with Aware, Awake, Alive and members of the alcoholic beverage industry to spread the word to young Texans: Don’t be afraid to call for help.

This message is so important that the Texas Legislature has enacted a new law to encourage young people to ask for help when needed. The 911 Lifeline Legislation, sponsored by Senator Kirk Watson, provides limited immunity to a person under 21 who calls for help because someone may have alcohol poisoning.

Senate Bill 1331 says that in the event of possible alcohol poisoning, a person under 21 calling for help will not be cited for possessing or consuming alcohol. The immunity for minors is limited to the first person who calls for help, only if he or she stays on the scene and cooperates with law enforcement and medical personnel. The new law does not protect a person from being cited for any other violation.

TABC enacted a similar internal policy in 2009, following the death of 18-year-old Austinite Carson Starkey. Carson died of alcohol overdose during his first semester of college following a fraternity hazing incident. Under this new law effective September 1st, youth who do the right thing are protected, regardless of which law enforcement agency responds to the 911 call. TABC hopes that the 911 Lifeline Legislation and more education about alcohol poisoning will help students in a similar situation to make the right decision to save someone’s life.

In a letter being sent to over 75 Texas colleges and universities, TABC Administrator Alan Steen says: “Unfortunately, in situations where illegal activity leads to a medical emergency, other students fail to call for medical assistance, either out of fear or lack of knowledge. Our culture teaches teenagers not to drink alcohol because they could be arrested, get in trouble with their parents, lose scholarship money, get kicked out of school, or have career goals destroyed. In many cases, this fear doesn’t stop the drinking; it only prevents them from doing the right thing when a situation goes bad. The fear of getting in trouble, coupled with a lack of knowledge of the signs of alcohol poisoning, has led to the death of several students in Austin, around Texas, and across the country.

“We at TABC feel strongly that with enough publicity and education, this law will save lives. For that reason, we are offering our support at the local level to educate you, your staff or your students on the 911 Lifeline Legislation.”

Contact:  Carolyn Beck – Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission – 512-206-3347

Also available for comment:
Steve Scheibal – The Office of Sen. Kirk Watson – 512-463-0114

Conor Kenny – Aware Awake Alive – 202-277-6427 (cell)