Legislation Would Expand Emergency Contact Registry For Use by Law Enforcement During Serious Car Accidents, Expand “Sara’s Law,” next-of-kin registry
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senator Nicholas Sacco to expand the state’s Next-of-Kin Registry, known as Sarah’s Law, to allow residents to submit additional information to be accessible by law enforcement officers in case of a motor vehicle accident, cleared the Senate today.
“Every second matters in cases of serious car crashes. Providing an immediate way for police officers to contact family members and loved ones in those critical moments could mean the possibility of a life saved with critical medical information or a final chance to say goodbye,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Expanding the state registry will provide law enforcement with additional tools to identify victims so that loved ones may be contacted as soon as possible in an emergency.”
“Expanding the scope of our existing program, known as the Next-of-Kin Registry in New Jersey, will prove helpful in assisting police officers, who are often the first responders, during serious car accidents to connect those involved with their loved ones in an efficient and expedient manner,” said Senator Sacco (D-Bergen, Hudson), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
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.
The bill, S-2966, requires the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to allow a holder of any New Jersey State validated permit or probationary or basic driver’s license to include, with the submission of the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts, the vehicle identification number of any vehicle owned, leased, or authorized to be used by the permit holder or licensee to the “Next-of-Kin Registry” (registry) either through the MVC’s website or by mail.
A permit holder or licensee would have the opportunity to update the information in the registry at any time.
The information 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.
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.
The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 33-0. It next heads to the full Assembly for consideration.