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NJ Bill would require DUI Testing for Drivers in Fatal or Serious Injury Motor Vehicle Accidents

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August 8, 2010

A bill in the New Jersey legislature would require the testing of drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injures for alcohol and drug use.

Assembly Bill No. A651 requires New Jersey police officers to obtain a breath or blood sample of any motor vehicle driver involved in an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury. The bill defines serious bodily injury as an injury with a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

Police can currently only test drivers for drug or alcohol use due to evidence or a clear-cut suspicion that the driver was driving under the influence.

Under the bill, a driver would be deemed to have given consent to the taking of a blood sample just as they currently are deemed to have given consent to a breath test. If a driver refuses to submit to the testing, they would be subject to the same penalties as a person convicted of refusal in relation to a drunk-driving charge under R.S.39:4-50, with fines up to $1000 and driver’s license suspension for as long as two years.

Democratic Assemblymen Paul Moriarty and Nelson Albano are the primary sponsors of the bill.

“Testing for the influence of drugs or alcohol at the scene of an accident makes common sense," Albano told the Associated Press. "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."

According to a news release, the death of Anthony J. Farrace, 17, a passenger in a 2007 Southampton Township accident inspired the bill. After the accident, police tested Farrace’s body for the presence of alcohol or drugs, but the driver of the vehicle was not required to submit to any such testing. Police later cited the driver for careless driving, an offense which only carried a $200 ticket and six-month license suspension.

"Testing drivers for potential alcohol or drug use should be the rule when accidents result in death or serious injuries, not the exception," Moriarty told the Associated Press.