News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 24, 2012

EDITORIAL: Lifeline Law will save lives

Measure allows underage drinkers to face up to sobering reality

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A fact of life is that many college students will drink.

Too much.

That applies as much to those under 21 as to those of legal drinking age.

Some will drink so much they will pass out — with life-threatening high blood-alcohol levels.

Those around them — often underage friends who also have been drinking, also perhaps too much — may not act soon enough to help a drinker in danger. One reason may be fear of getting into trouble with the law.

If nothing is done in those situations, the result could be far worse than a hangover. The result could be death.

That’s happened to a couple of dozen Hoosiers under 21 in the last decade, according to state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who, together with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, brought a message to Indiana State University students in Terre Haute last week.

The message: If an underage friend is in trouble from too much alcohol, you can act to get your friend needed medical help without facing jail and fines for violating alcohol laws.

Indiana’s Lifeline Law, which became effective July 1, is the legal mechanism that allows immunity to those who call for help and stay around to help a friend in peril and talk with police and medics.

Says Merritt, a main sponsor of the law: “What is happening is kids panic and don’t really know which way is up. We don’t want them to panic. Just because someone made a mistake, they should not pay with their life.”

Students at several Indiana colleges pressed legislators to introduce and pass the law, and now, as Zoeller said, those students need to “talk to their friends and neighbors and spread the word … to look out after each other and use the Indiana Lifeline Law when necessary.”

To which we would add: Parents of college students and school staff who interact daily with students also need to help spread the word on the Lifeline Law — so that in a minute of panic, a student can know that a call for help will not mean a trip to jail.

Lives — young, productive, valuable — are literally on the line.