Coughlin & Pinkin Bill to Establish Registry to Help Police Notify Families after Car Accidents Becomes Law

New Statute Supplements Sara’s Law, Which in 2011 Established Statewide Online Next-of-Kin Registry

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin and Nancy Pinkin 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 recently signed into law.

“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 new law (formerly bill A-4573), to be known as the “National Motor Vehicle Emergency Contact Registry Act,” will 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 will 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 new law effectively is an extension of Sara’s Law, a bill 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 law will tie emergency contact information to a motorist’s vehicle identification number.

“By working with auto dealers to reach motorists, New Jersey can increase awareness of the Next-of-Kin Registry,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. Facilitating communication between first responders and the victim’s next-of-kin will help ensure that emergency contacts are informed as soon as possible and can offer assistance, if necessary.”

Under the new law, auto dealers will 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 will be for the exclusive use of law enforcement and would not be considered a government record.