By: Special to The Laredo Sun
This message is so important that the Texas Legislature 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 Administrator Alan Steen said, "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."
Carson Starkey died of alcohol poisoning during his first semester of college following a fraternity hazing incident. Within 20 minutes of the time he started drinking, he collapsed and became unresponsive.
Ultimately, his blood alcohol content at the time of death was between .39% and .447% -- over four times the legal limit for driving in Texas and California.
Despite the fact that Carson had lost consciousness and was showing multiple signs of alcohol poisoning, his fraternity brothers didn't seek help until it was too late.
Based on their actions that night, it was clear the young men hesitated to seek help in part because they were afraid of getting into trouble.
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.
Steen says, "Two years ago today, TABC announced the Carson Starkey Medical / Good Samaritan Amnesty policy in an attempt to prevent future deaths from alcohol poisoning.
Under this new state law that became effective September 1st, youth who do the right thing are protected, regardless of which law enforcement agency responds to the 911 call.” Steen continued, “I urge young people to be a good friend.
Know the signs of alcohol poisoning. Don't leave an unconscious person alone, and don't be afraid to call 911."
The message is simple: If you think they need help, they need help.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:
M Mental Confusion
S Snoring / Gasping for Air
T Throwing Up
E Erratic Breathing
L Loss of Consciousness
P Paleness / Blueness of Skin
Don't wait for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help!
For more information on the 911 Lifeline Legislation and on alcohol poisoning, please visit TABC's website and download an informational brochure.
Carson Starkey was born in Austin, Texas on April 17, 1990, and he was a third generation graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin, Texas. For more information on Carson's life, and the non-profit association created in his memory, visit www.awareawakealive.org.
Unfortunately, Carson’s story is not unique. To read about more underage youth who have died from alcohol-related emergencies, or for more information about alcohol poisoning, binge drinking, hazing and medical amnesty, visit the website for The Gordie Center for Alcohol & Substance Education at the University of Virginia (formerly known as the Gordie Foundation).