‘Sara’s Law’ Ensures Timely Emergency Contact for Law Enforcement Officials
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale, named “Sara’s Law,” which establishes a program to allow law enforcement officials to reach out to a person’s emergency contacts in the event of a motor vehicle accident was signed into law today by Governor Christie.
“When someone is involved in a serious car accident, time is of the essence,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Through this law, moving forward, law enforcement will have a way to contact the family members or loved ones of a driver or passenger if they are incapacitated, injured or killed as a result of an auto accident. This law creates a mechanism to get the word out when an accident takes place, and to inform family members of the hospital or emergency health care facility that a person is taken to for medical care.”
The new law, S-1829, requires 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 could voluntarily submit the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts to the MVC. In the event of a motor vehicle accident, law enforcement will 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.
Senator Vitale’s measure also lowers 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 new law ensures that emergency contact information supplied to the MVC under this law would be considered non-discoverable as a public record, except upon subpoena by a grand jury or court order in a criminal matter.
“Expanding the non-driver ID eligibility to more teenagers allows parents a small measure of peace of mind in knowing that, God forbid their child is ever in a car accident, at least they will be informed quickly,” said Senator Vitale. “This law addresses the emotional needs of families by allowing them to be by each other’s side in the event of a tragedy, but it also allows family members and other emergency contacts with intimate knowledge of an accident victim’s wishes and unique health needs to ensure that those concerns are met in the administration of medical care.”
The measure 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 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 Vitale. “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 bill was unanimously approved by the Senate in December, and received final legislative approval by the Assembly in February.