Senate Passes Bill To Establish Next-Of-Kin Notification For Motor Vehicle Accidents

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Sen. Joseph Vitale

TRENTON – “Sara’s Law,” which would establish a program to allow law enforcement officials to contact emergency contacts in the event of a motor vehicle accident was unanimously approved by the Senate Monday.

“In the event of a car accident, time is of the essence,” said Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Unfortunately, there’s currently no mechanism in place to contact family members or loved ones if a driver or passenger is incapacitated, injured or killed as the result of an auto accident. This bill would make sure that law enforcement officials have the capacity to contact the next-of-kin to notify them of the accident and inform them of the hospital and emergency health care facility that a person is taken for medical care.”

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The bill, S-1829, would require the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to develop an Internet emergency contact registry program. Under the program, the holder of any State validated driver’s permit, probationary license, basic license or non-driver identification card would voluntarily submit the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts to the MVC. In the event of a motor vehicle accident, law enforcement would be able to access the emergency contact database to notify next-of-kin in a timely manner of the accident, and inform them of the hospital or other location at which the driver or passenger may be receiving medical treatment.

The bill would also lower the age requirement to receive a non-driver identification card, used solely for identification purposes, from 17 years old to 14 years old. Finally the bill would ensure that emergency contact information supplied to the MVC for the purposes of this bill would be considered non-discoverable as a public record, except upon subpoena by a grand jury or court order in a criminal matter.

“By expanding non-driver ID to more teenagers, we can ensure that parents will get timely notification if, God forbid, their child is in a car accident,” said Vitale. “In the event of tragedy, this bill would allow loved ones to be by each other’s side after an automobile accident, but it would also allow family members and other emergency contacts with intimate knowledge of an accident victim’s wishes to ensure those wishes are being followed in the administration of medical care.”

The bill is named “Sara’s Law” in memory of Sara Dubinin, a 19-year-old Sayerville woman who tragically died in 2007 from injuries sustained from a car accident. It took emergency responders an hour and a half to notify Sara’s 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.

“New Jersey families owe a debt of gratitude to the Dubinin family, which has turned tragedy into an opportunity to improve the system,” said Vitale. “My heart goes out to Sara’s parents, and the countless other families who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye in the event of a fatal motor vehicle accident. ‘Sara’s Law’ will hopefully ensure that when automotive tragedy strikes, that family, friends and loved ones are quickly notified.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration of Senate amendments, before going to the Governor’s desk.


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