Legislation Would Create First “National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry” For Use by Law Enforcement During Serious Car Accidents
TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale today introduced a bill, also called the National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry Act, that would require motor vehicle manufacturers that distribute vehicles in New Jersey, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, to establish a national registry to store emergency contact information accessible by law enforcement officers in case of a motor vehicle accident.
“The national registry proposed under this bill expands the Next-of-Kin Registry we enacted in New Jersey, which provides a valuable resource in cases of serious car crashes for police officers to contact family members and loved ones,” said Senator Vitale. “Broadening the scope of the program by participating in a national emergency contact registry, where all 50 states can be linked, will create an efficient and immediate way for police nationwide to find and notify loved ones in cases of emergency.”
Under the bill, every new motor vehicle dealer and leasing dealer operating in New Jersey would be required to allow a purchaser or lessee of a new motor vehicle to voluntarily register at the point of sale an emergency contact to be stored in the National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry. The information, which would be linked to the vehicle identification number, would exclusively be available for use by law enforcement in the case of a motor vehicle crash resulting in serious bodily injury, death, or incapacitation of a driver. In such instances, a law enforcement officer investigating the crash would be required, when practicable, to attempt to locate an emergency contact by accessing the registry, and expeditiously inform the contact of the hospital or other location at which the driver may be receiving medical treatment.
The bill expands the Next-of-Kin Registry, known as “Sara’s Law” enacted in April 2011, which 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 crash. Hours passed before her parents learned of the accident, and by the time they arrived at the hospital, she had already slipped into a coma. Sara died the next morning.
“We assume that we will be notified immediately if our loved ones are involved in a crash in which they are incapacitated, and now I know from our tragic experience with my precious daughter, that this is not always the case,” said Betty Dubinin, Sara’s mother. “Bringing the automotive industry together with law enforcement to advance Sara’s Law nationwide will ensure motorists in all 50 states have the peace-of-mind that police will have the necessary resource to quickly access motor vehicle owner emergency contact information. I was not there for my precious daughter when she needed me most, and I will never know if the outcome would be different if I was there with Sara, holding her hand and letting her know she was not alone. I had no part in making decisions for my daughter at this most critical time.”
“Sara’s Law” was expanded last year, with legislation also sponsored by Senator Vitale, to allow Garden State residents with a valid permit, driver’s license, or identification card 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.
“Providing emergency room personnel with timely access to family members to obtain additional information, such as a crash victim’s medical records and medical directives will definitely save lives,” said Ramsay McCue, president of Car Dealers Saving Lives, a California nonprofit organization devoted to working with the automotive industry and law enforcement to launch the National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry, enabling police and hospitals to reduce family notification delays following roadside emergencies involving the incapacitated.
The new database would be the first of its kind, and would be hosted by the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which is already linked to all 50 state motor vehicle agencies. The proposed bill would apply to motor vehicles that are a 2020 model year or later and that are sold or leased on or after January 1, 2019.
Under current law, a law enforcement officer investigating a crash that results in serious bodily injury, death or incapacitation of a driver or any passenger is required to attempt to locate emergency contacts by accessing the Next-of-Kin Registry and expeditiously notify them.