Drivers involved in accidents in which someone dies or is seriously hurt would have to take a sobriety test under a bill recently introduced in the New Jersey Legislature.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the requirement would help police determine whether the driver should be arrested or charged with a crime.
Currently, authorities can only give a sobriety test when there is evidence or clear suspicion that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A car accident alone does not necessarily provide that evidence.
“That’s really it in a nutshell: whether an accident is really an accident, or whether the driver was impaired and should be brought to justice,” said Moriarty, D-Turnersville.
The bill was introduced last month, though Moriarty said he did not know when it would be heard by lawmakers.
The measure is a response to a July 2007 fatal car crash in Southampton Township. Anthony Farrace, a 17-year-old heading into his senior year at Cherokee High School, was killed after the car he was riding in hit a tree.
Anthony, an aspiring U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, was wearing his seat belt at the time, said his father, John Farrace.
The driver, a 17-year-old girl, was later cited for careless driving under a plea bargain, Farrace said. She also was fined $200 and had her license suspended for six months, a punishment Farrace described as “a disgrace.”
Meanwhile, Anthony’s body was tested for drugs and alcohol, but the driver, who had minor injuries from the crash, was not.
Farrace said the bill was his idea, and he recently asked Moriarty to sponsor it. Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May Court House, also is a sponsor.
One person who supports it is Carolyn Pittman Budd, whose 17-year-old son, Brian Pittman, was killed in a car accident 31 years ago in Medford.
Brian was riding in a car with two friends when the driver, also 17, ran a red light, she said. A truck hauling lumber hit the passenger side of their car, killing Brian and the other teen in the car, a 16-year-old girl.
Pittman Budd said her son had a beer bottle between his legs and a marijuana pipe in his pocket at the time of the crash. She said police asked the driver if he’d been drinking or using drugs, but the driver said no, only Brian and the girl were, and the driver never was tested after the accident.
The driver lost his license for nine months because of the accident, she added.
Now 70, Pittman Budd said the proposed bill is a good first step to ensuring drivers are held accountable for their actions.
“It’s not something that you ever get over,” she said. “You don’t get over the loss, and you don’t get over the injustice of what happened.”
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