TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law Monday that will create a next-of-kin registry to be utilized to notify family when a loved one is incapacitated in a serious accident was signed into law Monday. It had received final legislative approval in February.
The new law is named 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-Sayreville and one of the bill’s sponsors. “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 has the opportunity to voluntarily electronically submit the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts to the Motor Vehicle Commission.
If such a registered individual was subsequently involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in serious injury, death or incapacitation, law enforcement personnel will utilize the registry to notify the individual’s emergency contacts.
“The Dubinin’s story is terrible and it would be a larger tragedy if we had not put in place a mechanism to prevent this from happening again,” said Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin, D-Woodbridge. “We now have a system in place to notify family members in a timely manner whenever tragedy strikes.”
In addition, Sara’s Law lowers the age limit for a MVC-issued non-driver identification card from age 17 to age 14, though anyone under 17 needs parental consent to get the card. Any parent obtaining a non-driver identification card for their child will be able to designate themselves as the child’s emergency registry contact. The sponsors hope this will increase the number of teenage participants in the next-of-kin registry.
“New Jersey families owe a huge debt of gratitude for the advocacy of the Dubinin family, which has turned tragedy into an opportunity to improve the system for others,” said Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Woodbridge. “My heart goes out to Sara’s parents in their loss, and the countless families who never had a chance to say goodbye in the event of a fatal motor vehicle accident. Thankfully, ‘Sara’s Law’ will make sure that families have timely notification of an accident, and will hopefully enable more people to be by their loved one’s side in times of crisis.”
The law will take effect in 18 months, coinciding with a state Motor Vehicle Commission computer upgrade and giving the MVC time to develop the registry.
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