Coolahan, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).
This is a civil action in which the plaintiffs assert claims against the named defendants for personal injury and property damage arising out of a collision which occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 7, 1953. The defendant, Burton A. Fern, was a resident of this State at the time of the accident but shortly thereafter became a resident of the State of Connecticut. In July of 1954 summons and complaint were served upon Fern through the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles. A motion to quash such service was argued before this court.
It is conceded by the plaintiffs that R.S. 39:7-2, the sole statutory provision for substituted service on non-resident motorists, did not authorize its invocation when non-residence did not exist concurrently with the happening of an accident. The Legislature, however, saw fit to correct this unequal situation by its passage of chapter 61 of the Laws of 1954, N.J.S.A. 39:7-2.1, 2.2, which is a supplement to R.S. 39:7-2, and provides as follows:
"1. Any resident of this State who shall drive a motor vehicle, or cause a motor vehicle to be driven, upon any public highway in this State, whether or not such motor vehicle is registered under the laws of this State and whether or not such person or the driver of such motor vehicle is licensed to drive a motor vehicle upon the highways of this State, shall by the operation of such motor vehicle, or by causing the same to be operated, within this State, make and constitute the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles in the Department of Law and Public Safety his agent for the acceptance of process, in any civil action or proceeding, issuing out of any county district court, County Court or other court of civil jurisdiction of this State against him by reason of an accident or collision in
this State in which such motor vehicle, while so driven or caused to be driven, shall be involved if, and in case, such person shall cease to be a resident of this State and service of such process upon him within this State cannot be made by reason of his nonresidence. The operating or causing to be operated of any such motor vehicle within this State shall be his signification of the agreement of such person operating the same or the person for whom such motor vehicle is operated of his agreement that any such process against him which is so served after he becomes a nonresident of this State shall be of the same legal force and validity as if served upon him personally in accordance with law within this State.
2. Service of process shall be made, and notice thereof shall be given, under this act in the same manner and with the same effect, the same fees shall be chargeable and payable, continuance may be ordered and the same records shall be kept, as is provided in the act to which this act is a supplement.
3. This act shall take effect immediately.
Approved and effective June 24, 1954."
It is the contention of the plaintiffs, who began their action following the enactment of chapter 61, that the supplement should be construed retrospectively. Such a construction, however, is not consistent with recognized principles. The settled law of this State demands the prospective construction of a statute unless the language of the Legislature clearly indicates a retroactive intent. In the case of Citizens' Gaslight Co. v. Alden , 44 N.J.L. 648 (E. & A. 1882) the court, at page 653, says:
"Laws, generally, are enacted for the regulation of future affairs and conduct, and to establish the basis on which rights may thereafter under them be rested, and are not usually designed to alter or affect the quality or legal relations of past acts and concluded transactions, much less to disturb rights which have arisen under laws running concurrently with their birth. Hence we do not look for or expect in any enactment that it shall be operative as of time prior to its own existence; and before we are permitted to ascribe to it such purpose, there must be found in the law such clear and indubitable expression of the legislative design as precludes any other reasonable interpretation of the words used. The rule in the Courts is, that retroactive effect will not be given to a statute when the words in it can be construed as designed to make it prospective only. Williamson v. N.J.S.R.R. Co. , 29 Stew. Eq. 311."
R.S. 39:7-2 and its supplement, chapter 61, provide for the designation of the Director of ...