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Sara's Law: Creating a Next-of-Kin Registry for New Jersey Car Accident Victims

When someone is critically injured on the road, his or her family shouldn't be left in the dark about what happened. In cases involving incapacitating injuries that may be life-threatening, there has to be a way to get word to the person's loved ones as quickly as possible.

New Jersey has taken legislative action to create a means by which to provide such notification. Known as Sara's Law, it would create a state-operated next-of-kin registry for car accident victims. The registry is intended to provide for the notification of family members when a loved one suffers an incapacitating accident.

The proposed law is named after Sara Dubinin, a 19-year-old who was grievously injured in a New Jersey car accident in 2007. Emergency responders were unable to notify her parents until 90 minutes after the accident. She had slipped into a coma by the time her parents reached the hospital and died the next day.

Sara's Law will enable anyone with a New Jersey driver's license or identification card to voluntarily submit the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts to the Motor Vehicle Commission. The Commission will keep the information in a database, to be used by law enforcement personnel only in the event of a motor vehicle accident resulting in serious injury, death or incapacitation

Anyone under age 17 would need parental permission to get the card. But eligibility for non-driver ID cards would be lowered from 17 to 14. Parents who obtain a non-driver ID card could list themselves as the emergency contact in the registry.

The law has now passed in both chambers of the Legislature and is headed for the governor. If the governor signs the law, it will take effect in 18 months, once the Motor Vehicle Commission upgrades its computer system.

Source: "Sara's Law" To Create MVC Next-Of-Kin Registry Receives Final Approval," New Jersey Today, 2-21-11

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