New Jersey establishes VIN database to expedite notifications after a crash

No other state has gone as far as New Jersey when it comes communicating information following a car accident.
No other state has gone as far as New Jersey when it comes communicating information following a car accident. | File photo

Any initiative that might help emergency responders communicate with families following a car crash is a positive, according to one national highway safety organization.

Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week signed legislation establishing an emergency contact registry for cars that is linked to the vehicle identification number (VIN). This  new law requires the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to allow vehicle owners to submit their VIN to the statewide emergency contact information registry program known as the "Next of Kin Registry."

The new law effectively expands one enacted in 2011, which established the Next-of-Kin Registry. That law is known as “Sara’s Law."

It was created following the death of Sara Dubinin, a 19-year-old woman who died in 2007 from injuries resulting from a car crash. It took hours for her parents to be alerted. No other state has gone as far as New Jersey when it comes communicating information following a car accident.

Cara Macek, of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said that for medical services and first responders any new initiative to accelerate communications surrounding traffic incidents is positive.

That is especially true if it is voluntary, Macek added. "It is positive when state government entities are willing to help communications," she told Mega Dealer News.

Her organization is a national group representing the state and territorial highway safety offices that implement federal grant programs to address behavioral highway safety issues.

"In the aftermath of a serious car crash, emergency personnel need to be able to communicate with the victim's family in a timely fashion, whether it's to secure information regarding the person's medical history or, in the most tragic cases, allowing them to say their final goodbye," Tyler Izen, executive director of Car Dealers Saving Lives, said in a statement. "When seconds count, having immediate access to an emergency contact is essential."

Car Dealers Saving Lives is a California-based automotive nonproft organized to promote social welfare.

Under the new law, the New Jersey MVC will allow any state driver license holder to voluntarily submit the name and telephone number of two emergency contacts. The information submitted to the next of kin registry would include the VIN of any vehicle owned or leased, or authorized to be used by the permit holder or licensee.

"Having a designated emergency contact can help eliminate some of the guesswork that health care professionals otherwise may go through as they assist a victim who is unable to communicate his or her wishes," Izen said. "More importantly, it can limit the chances that family members will experience the kind of anguish Sara Dubinin's parents did in 2007, when they received notification over two hours later that their daughter had been in a crash that ultimately was fatal. Taking a few minutes to register a vehicle identification number in the Next of Kin Registry can pre-emptively reduce chaos and heartache in the unfortunate event of a serious roadside emergency."

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