TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywoman Aura Dunn’s bill allowing drivers with autism or another communication disorder to notate their diagnosis on a license or ID issued by the Motor Vehicle Commission passed the Assembly unanimously on Thursday.
The bill (A2369/S761) aims to improve communication between law enforcement and those who have problems processing, comprehending or applying language.
“Interactions with police officers are stressful for drivers who don’t struggle with communication issues. For those who have autism or disorders involving speech or language, it can be dangerous, because they may not respond appropriately,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “A designation of such a diagnosis on a driver’s license would help law enforcement recognize when a person may have trouble communicating and also reduce some anxieties for those drivers and their families.”
The diagnosis would be noted under the restrictions column on licenses. The driver’s parent, guardian or caregiver may also request the notation on the driver’s behalf. Additionally, police departments in the state would be provided with written guidance on effectively communicating with a person who has autism or another communication disorder.
“Leaders in law enforcement have responded enthusiastically to this legislation because it reinforces their efforts to better understand the limitations of certain drivers with disabilities before emergencies arise,” she added.
In New Jersey, nearly one third of teenagers with autism get their driver’s licenses by the age of 21. More than a dozen other states have enacted similar legislation allowing a driver’s license applicant to request a communication impediment notation.
If signed by the governor, the law will take effect in 19 months.