Investigators Story Prompts Proposal of So-Called Lifeline Law

Senator Bruce Tarr plans to file a bill that would make Massachusetts the 36th state to have a so-called lifeline law.

Massachusetts may soon join the large majority of other states by protecting underage people from prosecution if they call for help for a friend who drank too much. 

State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, plans to file a bill that would make Massachusetts the 36th state to have a so-called lifeline law. 

“We want to encourage decisions that will save lives so what our legislation does,” Tarr said. “(It) will create an analog for alcohol and that’s largely because we’ve seen the reporting you’ve done.” 

The lifeline law would provide immunity for kids under 21 to both the person injured and the caller who stays to get them medical help. 

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan also threw her support behind proposals like Tarr’s. 

“The research in other states that have these types of statutes indicates what happens when they pass is the number of 911 calls goes up dramatically,” she said. 

Beyond encouraging young people to call for help without fear when someone’s life is in danger, Ryan said parents should talk to their kids about drinking and alcohol abuse. 

“I think we need to be having conversations with our kids as young as possible and they understand it,” she said. “People ask me all the time when is too young. I say why don’t you ask them what do they know because they’re already getting information.” 

Tarr said that kids often don’t think about the potentially lethal consequences of binge drinking.

“I think often times when you are young you think you’re invincible,” he said. “And you think those things will never happen to you. And that’s why your story has been so important, to help people understand this is the face of binge drinking. This is the face of abusing alcohol, this is the face of not making good decisions about the use of alcohol. ...This is what we’re trying to prevent.” 

Tarr, the state Senate minority leader, was moved to file his bill after the NBC Boston Investigators’ story about 15-year-old Ryleigh of Garder. She went out with friends one night in August to drink. When she got sick and passed out, most of her friends left, afraid calling an ambulance would lead to prosecution. 

A person in the group whom Ryleigh barely knew tracked down her mother on Facebook, and drove the girl home. Her mother, Melissa Aho, called 911. 

Ryleigh spent days in a coma on life support. 

Thirty-five states have laws protecting kids from prosecution if they call for help. Besides Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island also do not have a lifeline law in New England.

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