“Zackhary’s Law,” an alert system named after a Hoboken man killed in a 2016 hit-and-run, was adopted by the state of New Jersey after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed the bill – where Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-33) was a primary sponsor – earlier today.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I hope this law reminds drivers thinking of fleeing an accident that the whole state will be looking for you, and you will be caught,” Chaparro said in a statement.
“I want to thank the Simmons family for working so hard on this bill and sharing their time and inspiring this law to honor Zack and encourage other drivers to stop and help an injured person instead of cowardly fleeing a scene.”
Zackhary Simmons, the cousin of former top NBA draft pick Ben Simmons, was 21 years old when he was killed in a hit-and-run near the intersection of Willow Avenue and 6th Street in Hoboken on June 25th, 2016.
The new bill, which was also sponsored by Assembly members Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Daniel Benson (D-14), and Joann Downey (D-11), will establish an alert system to facilitate the apprehension of someone who knowingly flees the scene of a motor vehicle accident that results in another person’s death or serious bodily injury.
“Often a hit-and-run is the product of a motorist first not caring enough to drive safely and respect the rules of the road and then not caring enough to stop when that recklessness causes someone harm. That driver needs to be identified and taken off the road as soon as possible,” added Jimenez.
“The Zack Alert system will provide a low-cost common-sense means of apprehending those who leave the scene of an accident.”
Similar to the Amber and Silver Alert systems already in place, the Zack Alert system will be a cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies, transportation agencies, and the media.
In the event of an accident, a Zack Alert may be activated when a law enforcement agency confirms that someone was killed or seriously injured in a hit-and-run and the agency has sufficient information available to indicate that an alert would assist in locating the suspect.
Additionally, upon declaration of a Zack Alert, the law enforcement agency will immediately notify the Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority.
Under the law, the attorney general will notify the media serving New Jersey of the system and invite them to participate.
Any media outlet that participates in the Zack Alert system would voluntarily agree to transmit alerts to inform the public that a person has been suspected of causing serious bodily injury to, or the death of, another person by knowingly leaving the scene of the accident.
Furthermore, text message alerts will automatically be issued to every officer or employee of a public entity who possesses a mobile phone issued by a public entity.
Chaparro had first introduced the bill in September 2016 and it took years for it to come to a full vote in the state legislature.