TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Hal Wirths’ bill breaking down communication barriers for drivers who are deaf was advanced by the Assembly on Thursday. The bill would require the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to include a designation on car registrations that the driver is deaf or hard of hearing.
“As New Jersey’s population ages and they lose their hearing ability, the chance that law enforcement will encounter a significantly hard-of-hearing 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 CDC, about 4% of adults in New Jersey are deaf or have serious difficulty hearing. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports 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 (A3642) provides individuals with moderate to profound hearing loss with a digital notation on their vehicle registration that would appear when a law enforcement officer interacts with the MVC’s online interface.
“Building a communication bridge before an officer even asks for a driver’s license is the intent of this bill. It provides drivers with peace of mind and law enforcement with the tools to do their jobs,” said Wirths.
Sen. Steve Oroho sponsors the Senate version of the bill (S665), which passed a Senate committee on Dec. 14.