Coughlin & Wisniewski Bill to Establish Registry to Help Police Notify Families After Car Accidents Clears Assembly
Bill Supplements Sara's Law, Which in 2011 Established Statewide Online Next-of-Kin Registry
(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin and John Wisniewski sponsored to establish a database to help quickly notify a driver's next-of-kin in the event of a serious motor vehicle crash was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
"In the aftermath of a serious accident, emergency personnel need to be able to communicate with the victim's family, whether it's to secure information regarding the person's medical history or, in the most tragic cases, allow them to say their final goodbye," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "When seconds count, having immediate access to an emergency contact is essential."
The bill (A-4573), to be known as the "National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry Act," would require automobile manufacturers that sell vehicles in New Jersey to work with law enforcement and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to establish a National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry. The registry would enable law enforcement agencies to reach a motorist's emergency contact in the event of a crash that results in serious bodily injury, death or incapacitation of the motorist and inform the emergency contact of the hospital or other location at which the driver may be receiving medical treatment.
The measure effectively is an extension of Sara's Law, a measure both Coughlin and Wisniewski sponsored, which in 2011 established a next-of-kin registry linked to a motorist's driver's license or permit. Similarly, this new legislation would tie emergency contact information to a motorist's vehicle identification number.
"Having a designated emergency contact can eliminate some of the guesswork that health care professionals otherwise may go through as they assist a victim who is unable to communicate his or her wishes. More importantly, it can limit the chances that family members will experience the kind of anguish Sara Dubinin's parents did in 2007, when they received notification two hours later that their daughter had been in an accident that ultimately was fatal," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "A car buyer who takes a few minutes to provide emergency contact information at the dealership can pre-emptively reduce chaos and heartache in the unfortunate event of a bad accident."
Under the legislation, auto dealers would allow purchasers and lessees of new vehicles (2020 model year or later) to voluntarily register an emergency contact to be stored in the registry. The registry would be for the exclusive use of law enforcement and would not be considered a government record.
The bill was approved 62-1-11 by the Assembly and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.