TRENTON – Legislation to create a next-of-kin registry to be utilized to notify family when a loved one is incapacitated in a serious accident was released Thursday from an Assembly committee.
The measure (A-2592), would be entitled Sara’s Law, in honor of Sara Dubinin, a 19-year-old Sayreville resident who was critically injured and incapacitated in a car accident in September 2007.
It took emergency personnel an hour and a half to notify her parents of the accident and, by the time they arrived at the hospital, she had already slipped into a coma. Sara died the next morning having never awoken.
“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,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly’s transportation panel. “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 they would have been able to say goodbye to their daughter.”
Under Sara’s Law, the holder of any New Jersey state driver’s license or non-driver identification card would have the opportunity to voluntarily electronically submit the name and telephone number of a single emergency contact to the Motor Vehicle Commission.
If a registered individual was subsequently involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in serious injury, death or incapacitation, law enforcement personnel would utilize the registry to notify the individual’s emergency contact.
“The Dubinin’s story is terrible and it would be a larger tragedy if we did not put in place a mechanism to prevent this from happening again,” said Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “There is no reason why we should not have a system in place to notify family members in a timely manner whenever tragedy strikes.”
All contact information submitted through the registry would only be accessible to certain MVC employees and law enforcement.
Further, the information would not be subject to public disclosure under the Open Public Records Act.
In addition, the measure would lower the age limit for a MVC-issued non-driver identification card from age 17 to age 14, though anyone under 17 would need parental consent to get the card.
Any parent obtaining a non-driver identification card for their child would be able to designate themselves as the emergency registry contact. The sponsors hope this would increase the number of teenage participants in the next-of-kin registry.
The Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee released the measure. It now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.
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