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Illinois law aims to help those with conditions such as autism better communicate with police

The last year saw the approval of House Bill 4825, allowing Illinois drivers to communicate any medical conditions, including autism, to the Secretary of State’s Office. This measure aims to improve communication between drivers and law enforcement personnel during traffic stops, accidents or other encounters.

By providing this information beforehand, drivers with medical conditions can ensure a better understanding from law enforcement authorities and potentially avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations that could lead to unwanted consequences. Chief Mike Tyler, who is in charge of implementing this program, explains how it works.

How it works

According to Deputy Chief Tyler, individuals who have medical conditions can apply for an orange card labelled as “ALERT.”  This card contains the driver’s name, photo, medical condition, and any accommodations needed. When an officer pulls over a vehicle with an “ALERT” card displayed, they can quickly access this crucial information and act accordingly. Lack of this card is a serious problem as often a police will pull someone over.

For instance a driver with communication difficulties may try to get out of the vehicle to explain their situation and avoid confrontation, but this can escalate the situation as moving out of the vehicle is not allowed. Before the implementation of this card, there was a serious problem that many individuals faced when interacting with law enforcement.

Due to communication barriers or difficulties articulating words, individuals may have unintentionally come across as rude or disrespectful in the eyes of an officer who didn’t understand their situation. This escalated to confrontations.

Tyler mentioned that both the QPD’s program and the state’s program are capable of providing assistance even if a driver chooses to exit their vehicle, despite it being against protocol. He added that this action may not necessarily be an attempt to evade authorities or engage in any unlawful behavior, as it could also be due to a disability that needs consideration.

Accurate Description of Driver medical condition

Also, Jessica Douglas, the 911 Director for Adams County, highlighted that their role as dispatchers is to present an accurate and thorough description of the situation to first responders. In cases where information is incomplete, it can pose challenges with the way law enforcement personnel interact with the individuals involved.

Forms can be picked up at the department. Some of the crucial information that are needed include address registration, which allows residents to register their address as a home where an individual with a medical condition resides. According to Douglas, it is of utmost importance that officers have access to all pertinent information about potential individuals they may come across on the scene, including any cautionary details. The QPD offers this option for the benefit and safety of both the officers and the community.

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