TRENTON – In an effort to foster better communication between individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or some other communication disability and law enforcement officers they may encounter, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed legislation sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou and Senator Kristin Corrado that would allow the holder of a driver’s license or non-driver identification card to indicate the diagnosis on the identification card they present.
Under the bill, S-761, the chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission would be required to indicate such a diagnosis by notating the information on the person’s driver’s license or non-driver identification card under the column designated for restrictions.
“Some common traits of autism spectrum disorder, such as little or no eye contact, or other communication difficulty might cause misunderstanding with others, including police officers on patrol,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Having a driver’s license or ID card that can readily clarify a person’s diagnosis in the event of a traffic stop or some other encounter will enhance communication and lead to better outcomes for all.”
New Jersey has the highest rate of autism spectrum disorder in the nation, affecting nearly 1 in 34 children. Other common traits of persons with autism include difficulty understanding the rules of a conversation; aversion to answering questions about themselves; and being unaware of/disinterested in what is going on around them.
Senator Pou noted that a license designating a driver as being on the autism spectrum, in conjunction with proper training of law enforcement officials, can help streamline communication and also help ensure appropriate treatment is afforded for all New Jersey residents on the autism spectrum.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 12-0.