TRENTON, N.J. – A bill advancing in the Legislature and cleared by an Assembly committee on Monday, would require the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to issue a vehicle registration with a special designation to drivers with moderate to profound hearing loss or deafness.
Assemblyman Hal Wirths, a prime sponsor of the bill (A3642), has been working to improve interactions between drivers who are deaf and law enforcement. This bill is also aimed at decreasing misunderstandings that arise from communication barriers.
“As New Jersey’s population ages and they lose their hearing ability, the chance that law enforcement will encounter a significantly hard-of-hearing or deaf driver also increases,” Wirths (R-Sussex) said. “When communication is limited, it can cause a driver great anxiety and be potentially dangerous. A designation on a vehicle registration helps law enforcement recognize communication limitations and employ tactics to interact more effectively.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5% for adults aged 55 to 64, to 25% of those aged 65 to 74, and 50% of those who are 75 and older.
Under current New Jersey law, those suffering hearing loss can apply to receive a deaf or hard of hearing designation on their driver’s license. This bill allows individuals who can only hear at 41 decibels or higher, which is defined as moderate to profound hearing loss, to also receive a special vehicle registration certificate designating deafness. There would be no additional fee for the designation.
Sen. Steve Oroho sponsors the Senate version of the bill (S665), which passed the Senate Transportation Committee in March.