By Assemblyman John Wisniewski
An hour and a half.
That’s how long it took for word to reach Betty and Victor Dubinin that their only child – Sara – had been critically injured in a serious car accident and had been admitted to the Emergency Room at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick. Upon receiving the news, the Dubinins rushed to Sara’s side, arriving just moments after she had slipped into a coma.
Tragically, she never awoke; succumbing to her injuries the morning after she was admitted.
As a parent, I cannot imagine a worse feeling than not knowing my children were in danger and, because of that, not being able to be there for them when they needed me most. In a crisis situation, a handful of minutes could mean the difference between life and death. And for the Dubinins, having an extra 90 minutes might have meant that they would have been able to say goodbye to their daughter.
As terrible as it is to contemplate, the Dubinins’ story is not unique.
Fortunately, many state governments have recognized this delay in next of kin notification as a serious problem and are exploring ways to help their local law enforcement agencies create systems to inform family members in a timely manner when tragedy strikes.
On behalf of all parents across the state, I am working to do the same in New Jersey. I have introduced legislation to establish a next-of-kin database within the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission (MVC), so that families are promptly notified when a loved one is in jeopardy. I am honored to have my colleagues Senator Vitale and Assemblyman Coughlin working with me on this legislation.
The bill, A-2592, would be known as “Sara’s Law” to honor the memory of Sara Dubinin and the ordeal her family suffered to initiate a change in our notification laws. Sara’s Law would enable drivers across the state to visit the MVC website and, using their driver’s license number, designate three people to be contacted in the event that they are involved in an accident and are incapacitated. This information would only be available to law enforcement officers and only used during a serious motor vehicle accident.
Sara’s Law also would lower the age limit for a MVC-issued non-driver identification card from age 17 to age 14. For $24, a parent would be able to apply for a non-driver photo identification card for their child, designating themselves as the emergency contact. These cards would help fill the void of proper identification that currently exists for teens too young to get behind the wheel, giving parents the peace of mind of knowing that their contact information will be readily available to law enforcement officials should their child be involved in an emergency.
Sara’s Law is not just for children. Designating a trusted friend, family member or loved one to be an emergency contact would help ensure that in the event of a life threatening emergency, friends and family could be notified and be at a person’s bedside in minutes, rather than hours.
If Sara’s Law is enacted, I know that my family and I will be taking advantage of the program and I would urge families across the state to do the same.
For more information on Sara’s Law, please feel free to contact my office at 1-732-432-8460 or visit me online at www.WisniewskiforNJ.com
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