Helping drivers with autism steer clear of tragedy in NJ
🚗 A new effort to help NJ drivers with autism avoid problems with police
🚗 Proposed legislation would help officers recognize someone with the condition
🚗 The measure is introduced as more NJ residents are diagnosed on the spectrum
If you get stopped by the police in New Jersey while driving, you are expected to provide certain documents and answer questions in a simple, straightforward manner.
If you don’t the situation can quickly escalate because an officer may become suspicious you are hiding something or engaging in illegal activity.
But what if you can’t help yourself?
State Sen. Doug Steinhardt, R-Warren, is sponsoring bill S3533 that would help police know during a traffic stop that a driver with autism may have communication difficulties.
They may have a problem communicating
“People with an autism spectrum disorder often have a difficult time communicating with others," he said. "That could lead to unnecessary confusion and escalation during a traffic stop if a driver with autism doesn’t respond to an officer’s commands or answer their questions as expected.”
The proposed legislation would require the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to work with the Department of Human Services, the State Police, and at least one autism advocacy organization to design and produce special blue envelopes for people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder containing their motor vehicle documents.
The measure stipulates these envelopes would be required to:
🔵 Be of a color shade easily recognizable to law enforcement officers
🔵 Be large enough to hold a person’s driver’s license, motor vehicle registration certificate, and insurance identification card
🔵 Provide written information on the outside of the envelope identifying the envelope holder as a person who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
🔵 Provide written guidance to assist law enforcement officers in effectively communicating with a person who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
The bill would also require the MVC to establish the documentation required to obtain a blue envelope.
A growing number of NJ drivers have autism
Steinhardt said this is important with recent studies showing a sharp rise in the number of autism diagnoses in New Jersey in recent years, especially among people with no intellectual disability.
“We know we’re going to have more drivers with autism on New Jersey roads in the coming years, so it’s important that we put protections in place today,” he said.
“The blue envelopes we’re proposing are a simple solution that would help officers to complete a traffic stop safely. As soon as the officer is handed the special envelope by a driver with autism, they’ll have a better understanding of the situation and access to helpful information. That’ll be good for everyone involved.”
The bill has been formally introduced but it has not been assigned to a specific committee yet.
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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