People involved in accidents far from home or just around the corner may face their injuries alone if emergency responders have no way of knowing who to contact.

People involved in accidents far from home or just around the corner may face their injuries alone if emergency responders have no way of knowing who to contact.

In 2008, Ohio became the first state to allow residents to voluntarily provide emergency contact information as part of driver's license or state identification records. But few seem to be aware of the simple processes for providing multiple names and telephone numbers for those who need to know if a person suffers an incapacitating injury, one that leaves them unable to communicate with law enforcement or emergency personnel.

A story in The Columbus Dispatch last week noted that fewer than 150,000 of Ohio's 7.9 million licensed drivers have signed up for the next-of-kin registry.

That's only about 2 percent.

Two mothers who know the pain of not finding out until it was too late that their sons were involved in traffic accidents have formed a nonprofit organization to educate people about the existence of the Ohio Next of Kin Database.

At last week's meeting of Northland-area Block Watch coordinators, liaison officer Scott Clinger urged those in attendance to take the few minutes needed to visit and follow the links to provide information to the Department of Motor Vehicles on who to contact.

"It's a really good idea to do it," Clinger said.

"It's important because it is difficult for law enforcement and hospital personnel to find your family members if you are hurt and can't tell them who to call," according to an information sheet Clinger distributed to the Block Watch leaders.

Clinger noted that the next-of-kin contact details can even be obtained by authorized personnel over the Law Enforcement Automated Data Systems, or LEADS, meaning that notification delay can be cut down significantly even in cases where accidents occur in other states.

The nonprofit organization promoting the Ohio Next of Kin Database was formed by Linda Wuestenberg of the Strawberry Farms area and Mechanicsburg resident Carmela Wiant. Both were behind promoting the 2008 legislation that created the database.

"My family and I worked with our law enforcement and government officials to create this law after my son was involved in an accident and it took seven long hours to find me," Wuestenberg wrote on the information sheet Clinger handed out. "He died from his injuries."

The son, 33-year-old Steve Burge of Orient, was involved in a rollover crash in February 2007. He died from his injuries before authorities could track down his number.

David C. Money, Wiant's son, was fatally injured in a 2006 accident on Interstate 270. Franklin County Sheriff's deputies called his employer seeking to find out who to contact. Someone there called the brother of his fiance who finally reached out to Money's mom. By the time Wiant called the hospital to say that she was on the way from Mechanicsburg, according to The Dispatch, a chaplain came on the line to say that Money had died.

"How would emergency first responders find you if someone you love is in an accident?" Wuestenberg and Wiant wrote on the website of another organization they created, ParentGrief Inc. "In 2006 there were 334,206 motor vehicle accidents in the state of Ohio. Of these accidents 10,701 were rendered incapacitated and unable to communicate with emergency personnel.

These accident victims could not tell anyone who to contact. In most cases, the only contact information first responders have available is the address on your drivers license. Is there always someone home at the address you have listed on your driver's license? If not, the police have to begin an investigative search by contacting neighbors or looking up old records. This takes many precious hours that could stop you from being with your loved one quickly after an accident occurs.

"This is not the fault of the police. They use every tool available to them."

More information, and a link to the Ohio Next of Kin Database, may be found at