“Zackhary’s Law,” statewide legislation named after a man who was killed in a Hoboken hit-and-run back in June 2016 that would establish an alert system for all hit-and-runs, received approval from an Assembly panel today.
“I hope this bill reminds drivers thinking of fleeing an accident that the whole state will be looking for you, and you will be caught,” Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, a primary sponsor of the bill, 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 legislation to honor Zack and encourage other drivers to stop and help an injured person instead of cowardly fleeing a scene.”
Zackhary Simmons, 21, of Ramsey, was killed when he was fatally struck by a black Cadillac Escalade and it took authorities around nine months after the fact to indict the driver.
Specifically, the bill would 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.
Similar to the Amber and Silver Alert systems already in place, the Zack Alert system would be a voluntary, cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies, transportation agencies and the media.
“Using the eyes and ears of the public to locate a culprit has become a successful and critical tool for law enforcement,” added Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33).
“With Zack Alert, reckless drivers will know you will not get far after committing a hit-and-run in New Jersey.”
Under the bill, the attorney general would notify the media serving New Jersey of the system and invite them to participate.
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.
Upon declaration of a Zack Alert, the law enforcement agency would immediately notify the Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority.
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.
Additionally, text message alerts automatically would be issued to every officer or employee of a public entity who possesses a mobile phone issued by a public entity.
Assemblywomen Joann Downey (D-11), Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Valerie Vainieri-Huttle (D-37), along with Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14), also sponsored the measure.
The bill cleared the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee this morning, almost two years after the last attempt to pass the bill stalled.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-17) will now review the bill for further consideration.