‘Zackhary’s Law,’ Chaparro bill to help solve hit-and-run cases, clears committee

John Heinis, Hudson County View

“Zackhary’s Law,” a bill introduced by Hoboken Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-33) back in September to help law enforcement agencies solve hit-and-run cases, cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee earlier today.

The legislation was sponsored by Chaparro and Assembly colleagues Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Daniel Benson (D-14) and Angelica Jimenez (D-32) and it aims to establish an emergency alert system to help apprehend drivers responsible for fatal hit-and-run accidents.

The bill, known as Zackhary’s Law, commemorates the life of Zackhary Simmons, a 21-year-old man who died in Hoboken after being hit by a vehicle that fled the scene back in June.

“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,” 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 legislation to honor Zack and encourage other drivers to stop and help an injured person instead of cowardly fleeing a scene.”

The bill, A-4184, 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.

“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,” added Jimenez.

“That driver needs to be identified and taken off the road as soon as possible. The Zack Alert system would provide a low-cost common-sense means of apprehending those who leave the scene of an accident.”

Under the bill, the state attorney general would notify the local 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.