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Proposed Registry Would Notify Crash Victims' Emergency Contacts

When 19-year-old Sara Dubinen was critically injured in a 2007 car accident, emergency personnel were unable to locate her parents for 90 minutes. By the time they arrived at the hospital, Sara had slipped into a coma. She died the next morning without regaining consciousness. Sara's parents were not able to say goodbye to their daughter.

That incident and others like it are the motivation behind "Sara's Law", a measure currently making its way through the New Jersey state legislature. The law would create a voluntary registry that would be used to notify the emergency contacts of a person involved in a serious car accident.

Under the law, anyone with a New Jersey driver's license or identification card would have the option of submitting the name and telephone number of an emergency contact of their choice to the Motor Vehicle Commission. If the person is seriously injured, incapacitated or killed in a car accident, emergency personnel would use the registry to locate and notify the emergency contact.

The measure would also lower the age limit for non-driver identification cards from 17 to 14, although parental consent would be required for applicants under 17. Parents could then designate themselves as their child's emergency contact.

Proponents of the measure say that the program's costs would be minimal, both to launch and to maintain. More than that, they say, it provides a vital service. "The Dubinen's story is terrible, and it would be a larger tragedy if we didn't put in place a mechanism to prevent this from happening again," said Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin, one of the bill's primary sponsors.

The measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly in June and by the Senate Transportation Committee earlier this month. Next, the bill will go to the Budget and Appropriations Committee, which has yet to schedule a hearing.

Source: The Trentonian, "NJ seeks to create emergency notification registry", Bruce Shipkowski, 19 September 2010

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