Drivers involved in accidents in New Jersey that result in death or serious injury would have to submit to sobriety testing under a bill advancing in the legislature.
Currently, drivers can only be tested for drugs or alcohol when there is evidence or a clear-cut suspicion that a driver is under the influence.
But the bill (A-651) sponsored by Democratic Assemblymen Nelson Albano of Cape May Court House and Paul Moriarty of Turnersville would mandate that any driver either submit to a breath test or give a blood sample to determine whether alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident.
Those who refuse would be subject to the same penalties as someone convicted of refusal in relation to a drunk driving charge. First offenders could face fines of up to $1,000 and have their driver's license suspended for as long as two years.
"Testing drivers for potential alcohol or drug use should be the rule when accidents result in death or serious injuries, not the exception," Moriarty said.
The legislation stems from a fatal one-car crash in the Burlington County community of Southampton in July 2007.
Seventeen-year-old Anthony J. Farrace of Evesham, a passenger in the car, was killed when it hit a tree.
His body was tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs, as permitted by law, but the 17-year-old driver was not required to submit to testing. She eventually was cited for careless driving, for which she paid a $200 fine and had her license suspended for six months.
The accident spurred Farrace's father to push for legislation similar to the bill sponsored by the lawmakers.
The Assembly's Law and Public Safety Committee approved the bill in June, sending it to the full Assembly for its consideration. But a vote on the measure has not yet been scheduled.
"Testing for the influence of drugs or alcohol at the scene of an accident makes common sense," Albano said. "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."