Governor Christie Signs “Sara’s Law” Creating Emergency Contact Information Registry
New Jersey is the 7th State to Implement Next-of-Kin Notification Measure
– On Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Governor Chris Christie signed Sara’s Law, establishing a next-of-kin registry that provides law enforcement officials with immediate access to contact information in the event a family member is involved or injured in a motor vehicle accident. The bill is named for Sara Dubinin of Sayreville who fell into a coma and died as a result of a 2007 car accident. It took nearly two hours for her parents to be notified of the incident.
“As the father of four children, I know first-hand that it is a parent’s natural instinct to protect their child from harm and to be with that child in their time of need,” said Governor Christie. ”My heart goes out to the Dubinins for their terrible loss. By signing Sara’s Law, we are putting a commonsense process in place to ensure a family facing the terrible difficultly of a child in harm or danger is not further strained through notification that is delayed or too late.”
New Jersey joins a growing trend of states implementing similar notification measures. Six other states use next-of-kin registries. They are Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado and Delaware.
Under the new program, the holder of any New Jersey driver’s license or non-driver identification card has the opportunity to voluntarily submit the name and telephone number of two emergency contact persons to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).
If the licensee is involved in an accident resulting in serious injury, death, or incapacitation, law enforcement personnel would be able to utilize the program to notify the licensee’s emergency contacts.
To expand the number of teenagers eligible to participate in the next-of-kin program, the measure lowers the age at which a non-driver identification card can be obtained from 17 to 14.
Certain safeguards have been put in place to protect against unauthorized or improper access. For instance, any information submitted to the MVC will only be accessible by certain MVC employees and law enforcement personnel. Additionally, emergency contact information will not be subject to public disclosure under the “Open Public Records Act” and information is not discoverable as a public record, except upon a subpoena issued by a grand jury or a court order in a criminal matter. There will also be a delayed effective date of 18 months in order for the MVC to program their computers to process the new information made available by the bill.
Sponsors of Sara’s Law include Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex), Assemblymen John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex) and Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson).
On Friday, April 8, 2011, Governor Christie also signed the following:
S-831/A-2513 (Codey, Beck/McKeon)
– Permits wagers to be placed at racetracks or casino simulcasting facilities in advance for races not simulcast at facility under certain circumstances if race is simulcast at other facilities in the State
S-2130/A-3058 (Sarlo, O’Toole/Greenwald, Chivukula)
– Revises sales and use tax to maintain compliance with certain terms and conditions of Streamlined Sales and Use Tax
S-2390/A-3511 (Sarlo, Whelan/Burzichelli, Dance, Wagner, Casagrande, Vainieri Huttle)
– Decreases annual standardbred race dates to 75 minimum upon consent from Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey; increases to 5% maximum amount of certain purse moneys that may be distributed to aid horsemen
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