Proposed law a tribute to teen killed in crash

Staff Writer

Abill named in honor of Sara Dubinin, a Sayreville, Middlesex County, 19- year-old who was killed in a car crash in 2007, would create a next-of-kin registry to be used to notify family members if a loved one is incapacitated from a serious accident.

The state Assembly voted 78-0 to approve the bill in June, and on Sept. 13 the Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to release the proposal for a full Senate vote.

Sara’s Law would enable any New Jersey licensed driver, or someone with a nondriver identification card, to voluntarily submit two emergency contacts and their phone numbers to the state Motor Vehicle Commission. Police could use the registry to notify the contacts of a person who has been seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident.

Sara’s mother, Betty, said she approached state Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski of Sayreville about the need for such a law, given the tragic events that unfolded on Sept. 24, 2007. That morning, Sara was a passenger in a pickup truck that ran off the road and struck a tree on Karcher Street in Sayreville.

Betty Dubinin said her family was not immediately contacted after the accident, but received a phone call from an unknown friend of Sara’s that afternoon asking about her condition. She and her husband, Vic, then called the police and hospital and were told there had been an accident, but that there was no identification for the victim.

By the time they arrived at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, Sara had slipped into a coma. She died the next morning.

“As a mother, my anguish is overwhelming, and the thought that I was not there for my daughter when she needed me the most is more than I can bear,” Betty wrote in a letter to Greater Media Newspapers, urging public support for Sara’s Law. “If only I had been there, Sara would have known that she was not alone, and maybe things would be different. I will never know, but the thought never leaves my mind as I relive that day over and over again.”

Betty, through Sara’s Law, wants to prevent this from happening to other parents.

Wisniewski agreed, drafting the bill and sponsoring it with Craig J. Coughlin (both D-Middlesex) and Vincent Prieto (DHudson).

“As a parent, I cannot imagine a worse feeling than not knowing my children were in danger and, because of that, not being able to be there for them when they needed me most,” Wisniewski said.

“The Dubinins’ story is terrible and it would be a larger tragedy if we did not put in place a mechanism to prevent this from happening again,” Coughlin said.

The bill would also change the age limit of MVC-issued non-driver identification cards from 17 to 14, although teens under 17 would need parental permission to receive a non-driver identification card. If parents register for a child’s card, they would be designated as emergency contacts.

The registry information would be available only to specific personnel of the MVC and law enforcement officials.

The Sept. 13 vote was on an amended version of the measure. The amendment calls for the bill to take effect in 18 months, in conjunction with the MVC’s computer upgrades. If the bill is passed by the Senate, it will need to return for another Assembly vote due to the amendment. It could then become law upon receiving the governor’s signature.

“Eighteen months is a long time, and we hope that the law is not needed before then,” Betty Dubinin said.