A new, more effective alert system named after a victim of a Hoboken hit and run will be established now that Gov. Phil Murphy has signed the bill into law.
The bill is named for Zackhary Simmons, a 21-year-old Ramsey man who died after he was struck by a Cadillac Escalade in Hoboken near Willow Avenue and Sixth Street in June 2016.
He was the cousin of Philadelphia Sixers Ben Simmons.
The driver, a 51-year-old man from Brooklyn, was sentenced to four years in jail in March 2018 for knowingly leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in death.
“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,” said Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, one of the bill’s sponsors. “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.”
Known as “Zackhary’s Law,” it will establish an alert system to facilitate the apprehension of someone who knowingly flees the scene of a motor vehicle accident that results in a person’s death or serious bodily injury.
Much like Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts, the Zack Alert system will be a cooperative effort among 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 incident and the agency has sufficient information to indicate that an alert would assist in locating the suspected driver.
Once activated, the law enforcement agency will 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.
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.
“With so many other drivers on the road actively looking for one car, it’s almost inevitable that someone who sees a Zack Alert would come across the suspect,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, another of the bill’s sponsors. “Drivers will have to think twice about leaving the scene of an accident if they know there’s such a high likelihood of eventually being caught.”
“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,” said Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez. “That driver needs to be identified and taken off the road as soon as possible. The Zack Alert system will provide a low-cost common-sense means of apprehending those who leave the scene of an accident.”
NJ Assembly members Daniel Benson, Raj Mukherji, and Joann Downey also sponsored the bill.