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Measure Introduced in Response to 2007 Wreck that Killed Evesham Teen

(TURNERSVILLE) — Legislation Assemblymen Paul Moriarty and Nelson Albano sponsored to enhance the ability of police to identify drunk or drug-impaired drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents and prevent them from returning behind the wheel of their vehicle was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The legislation (A-651) was crafted in response to the death of Anthony J. Farrace, 17, who was killed when the car in which he was a passenger hit a tree off Route 70 in Southampton Township in July 2007.

Following the accident, the Evesham teen’s body was tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs.

However, the driver of the vehicle — a 17-year-old girl — was not required to submit to any test and eventually was cited for careless driving, an offense which only carried a $200 ticket and six-month license suspension.

Current law requires police to take a breath or blood sample only when there is evidence or a clear-cut suspicion that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. John Farrace, Anthony’s father, has said the law should require officers to test for drugs and alcohol at the scene of all accidents that result in death or serious injury.

“It is outrageous that unless police saw an empty beer bottle or drug paraphernalia they were essentially prohibited from even testing the driver responsible for Anthony’s death,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Testing drivers for potential alcohol or drug use should be the rule when accidents result in death or serious injuries, not the exception.”

Under the Moriarty/Albano legislation, all drivers of motor vehicles involved in accidents that result in a fatality or serious bodily injury would be required to either submit to a breath test or give police a blood sample to determine whether alcohol or drugs played a role in an incident. Drivers who refuse the testing would be subject to the same penalties as a person who is convicted of refusal in relation to a drunk driving charge; first offenses would be punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and a potential two-year suspension of their driver’s license.

“Testing for the influence of drugs or alcohol at the scene of an accident makes common sense,” said Albano (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Not only would police be able to determine whether a driver was under the influence, they would be able to ensure that impaired drivers don’t get back behind the wheel and will face serious charges.”

At the time of his death, Anthony Farrace had completed his junior year at Cherokee High School and was a candidate for the Class of 2012 at the United States Naval Academy.

The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

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