Registration Applications Will Now Be Available at All MVC Offices Across NJ
TRENTON – New Jersey residents with a valid permit, driver’s license, or identification card will soon be able to include their emergency contact information in the statewide “Next-of-Kin Registry” by mail using paper applications provided by the Motor Vehicle Commission’s customer service facilities and mailings, thanks to legislation (S-3016) sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale that was signed into law in January.
“Every minute matters in the aftermath of a major car accident, especially to family members and loved ones of any passenger who is seriously injured. Being able to reach someone could mean a chance to say goodbye,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This new law expands access to the next-of-kin registry by allowing residents to pick up paper applications when conducting their routine business at MVC locations instead of only being able to do so online.”
The next-of-kin program, enacted as “Sara’s Law” in April 2011, was created in memory of Sara Dubinin, a 19-year-old Sayreville woman who tragically died on September 25, 2007 from injuries resulting from a car accident. 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 Dubinin died the next morning.
“Sara’s Law is an important tool for the police and first responders to use to notify family members of anyone unable to speak for themselves in a motor vehicle crash,” said Betty Dubinin, Sara’s mother. “No one should miss those precious moments with their loved ones, and no one should find out the way that we did. We should be there when our loved ones need us the most, even if it is to just hold their hand and let them know they are not alone. We will never know if the outcome would have been different if we were there with Sara.”
Under the expanded program, any holder of a valid permit, probationary or basic driver’s license, or non-driver identification card may voluntarily submit or update the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts to be added to the Registry, either by Internet or using the new paper application.
The information is accessible by law enforcement officials for the purpose of notifying emergency contacts when a motor vehicle accident results in the serious bodily injury, death, or incapacitation of a driver or any passenger. Under current law, a law enforcement officer investigating the accident is required to attempt to locate emergency contacts by accessing the Next-of-Kin Registry and expeditiously notify them.
“The Next-of-Kin Registry is a valuable resource in cases of such emergencies, but it serves no purpose if people don’t register,” said Senator Vitale, citing that only 5,736 residents, as of April 2015, have enrolled in the program since its inception. “In an effort to encourage enrollment in the notification program, paper applications will now conveniently be available in all MVC offices across the state, in addition to the traditional online registration method.”
“This is a huge milestone for NJ, promoting awareness of Sara’s Law, and making this next-of-kin registry more accessible to residents,” added Betty Dubinin. “I thank the legislators who recognized the need for this registry, and the importance of giving residents more availability to access the registry. I am hopeful that families take advantage of this resource to protect their loved ones. I know that my precious daughter Sara, for whom this law is named, is continuing to help others.”
The law, which was also sponsored by Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, takes effect on Friday, April 1, 2016.