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Car accident caused by failure to buckle up and driving under influence

On Monday, a 22-year-old Hampton woman plead guilty to failing to observe a seat belt law designed to protect the safety of passengers.

The young woman, who was found to have driving under the influence of inhalants, failed to ensure her 16-year-old passenger was wearing her seat belt. A resulting car accident resulted in the underage passenger's death.

At the time of the incident, which took place back in August of 2007, neither she nor her underage passenger had been wearing seatbelts when her car ran off County Route 519 and struck a guardrail.

Troopers responding to the car accident found aerosol cans in the young woman's back seat, but didn't perform any field sobriety tests since she was immediately removed to a local hospital to treat a serious head injury and there is no established legal standard to test the impairment level of a driver who has taken inhalants. A later blood test showed she had been huffing dust-remover products.

On Monday, she entered into a plea bargain in Superior Court in Newton in which the prosecutors will not press against her a presumption of prison time for vehicular homicide. Instead, they will remain silent at her sentencing on April 15, leaving it "open-ended," for the court to determine.

As part of the plea bargain, the young woman reserves the right to withdraw her plea if the court sentences her to prison. Earlier, prosecutors dismissed a charge of driving under the influence since inhalants are not dealt with and there are few set standards for how to deal with such cases.

Prosecutors said the incident was the first death by automobile case involving inhalants in New Jersey.

Source: www.njherald.com, "Woman admits fault in fatal crash," Tom Howell JR., 1 Mar 2011.

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