A host of new laws took effect on January 1, and while we detailed five of them back in this blog, one new law that slipped under the radar was the new 911 Immunity Law.
The bill, which was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner last August, states that any underage person who calls 911 for medical assistance either for themselves or for another individual will not face a citation, arrest or prosecution for underage consumption. The goal of the law is to encourage teens and young adults to get help if they or someone they know is in need of medical assistance, without the fear that they’ll get in trouble for trying to help. That said, it’s important to note that while the bill grants a person immunity from the law for underage drinking, a person will still likely face consequences from their school or parents.
The bill is targeted at underage college students as well as teens in high school. Mitch Dickey, a student at the University of Illinois, said the bill is beneficial because it focuses on protections, not punishments.
“Students are going to drink anyway,” he said. “When it comes down to their safety it makes complete sense to want to push your student — or just anyone underage — to do the right thing and call 911 to get help.”
Underage Drinking Stats
Underage drinking is a big problem across the across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4,300 underage youth die each year in part because of underage drinking, many of whom could have been saved if they had received proper medical assistance. Here’s some more information on underage drinking from the CDC:
- Underage drinkers consume 11 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the United States
- On average, underage drinkers consume more alcohol per sitting than adult drinkers
- Roughly 200,000 underage drinkers are admitted to a medical center each year with side effects or injuries linked to alcohol consumption
- The total economic cost of underage drinking is greater than $20 billion annually
So while the bill probably won’t lead to a significant decrease in the number of underage kids who consume alcohol, hopefully it will help cut down on underage alcohol poisoning deaths.