Committee advances bill to eliminate potential misunderstandings between police and people with autism
A proposed bill that could eliminate a potentially dangerous misunderstanding between law enforcement officers and people with autism was advanced by the state Assembly Transportation Committee.
The bill would allow people who have autism or a communication disability to voluntarily add a mark to their driver’s license indicating that fact.
The bill is sponsored by Assemblywomen Serena DiMaso and Jean Stanfield. They say that the marking would help police officers and other first responders be aware that the person they are dealing with may not be able to effectively communicate.
"Ultimately, we want to help first responders during these interactions," DiMaso said in a statement. "It’s critical for law enforcement to understand whether a driver’s actions or behavior are a result of a medical diagnosis they might struggle to express.”
The bill would also provide training for law enforcement officers to better handle people with autism or communication disabilities.
“We cannot expect our officers to be experts in everything, but we can give them the tools needed to keep up the amazing job they are doing,” said Stanfield in a statement.
A 2017 study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia estimated about one-third of adults on the autism spectrum disorder have driver's licenses, based on a survey of data from New Jersey.
A communication disability is defined as someone who has a condition that impairs their ability to send, process and comprehend verbal and non-verbal communications.