Utah House OKs bill to help contact family after accidents

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A proposed change to Utah law could make it easier for law enforcement to contact the family of Utahns involved in traffic accidents.

HB21, which passed the House on Tuesday, would create a state database in which people could voluntarily add emergency contact information.

"Currently all the officers have is just what's on your driver license and that creates a problem," said Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights.

Poulson said the idea for the bill was brought to her by a retired law enforcement officer who had to notify family members in a number of cases and explained the difficulty in finding kin.

In 2002, Poulson said her daughter-in-law's mother and sister were involved in a fatal car accident in Beaver, while the rest of the family was at Lake Powell, and officers spent hours knocking on doors in the middle of the night because there was no emergency contact.

"In these instances," she said, "even if people die, the opportunity to be with them for the last moments is priceless."

Florida created the first such database in 2006, she said, and a number of other states have followed suit.

The Utah Highway Patrol and the Division of Motor Vehicles back the bill. It would cost taxpayers about $32,000 to set up the database.

The bill cleared the House 62-7 and goes to the Senate.


Twitter: @RobertGehrke