Editorial: 911 immunity is a good step in protecting underage drinking

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 821 into law on Aug. 24, granting all underage drinkers in Illinois with a longstanding campus standard, 911 immunity. The new law states that any underage drinker who calls 911 for medical assistance, or otherwise, will not face a drinking citation or arrest.

According to Skip Frost, University of Illinois Police Department deputy police chief, the University already had a similar policy in place. There is no significant difference between UIPD’s policy and the new law; however, we believe it’s important University students and those throughout the state are lawfully protected and feel comfortable calling for help.

It’s no secret that college students like to drink. And thanks to our ranking as the No. 1 party school, it’s certainly no secret that our University students enjoy a good night out. Many of those students are underage, and while we by no means condone underage drinking, it’s inevitable at a school of this size. Providing students with the confidence to make the safe choice when they, or a friend, have too much to drink could prove life saving.

Additionally, this law affects every underage person in Illinois, not just college students. High school students drink too, many of them unaware of how much they can consume. In 2013, 5.4 million Americans between 12 and 20 years old engaged in binge drinking, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Immunity may benefit younger drinkers even more. A scared 16-year-old is much more likely to call for help if they know the only trouble they face is from their parents.

Teenagers throughout Illinois should be educated on the new law so if they’re ever in an emergency situation, they won’t hesitate to call. But, teenagers should also be better educated on the dangers of drinking, how much is too much and signs of alcohol poisoning.

Often, teenagers are just told not to drink, and we believe they won’t. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, better known as M.A.D.D., one in six teens binge drink. Only one in 100 parents believe their child binge drinks.

The NSDUH survey found 4,358 people under 21 died from alcohol use in 2013.

The 911 immunity law is a great step forward in reducing that number. However, a more frank discussion about alcohol is necessary to prevent serious deaths and injuries. For now, we’re just happy Rauner has made a long-standing UIPD practice official.