It’s a sigh of relief as the new traffic bill passed by the state senate, pushed by State Sen. Julie Morrison, goes ahead to ensure better experiences for drivers with autism and other communication disabilities during routine traffic stops.
The typical interaction between a police officer and a driver, as you can probably imagine, can be a source of anxiety for nearly anybody. Now, take this situation and consider a person who has difficulty communicating, making it difficult to respond to commands. This can escalate into a stressful situation for both the driver and the police officer.
As Morris puts it, a police officer may interpret lack of eye contact as defiance, but as any person with Autism knows, eye contact proves challenging in such occasions.
Therefore, by indicating a speech impairment on one’s registration, traffic stops can be made less stressful for both the driver and the officer.
Illinois New Driver Bill – Autism
The new bill passed in Illinois addresses this issue by allowing drivers to voluntarily disclose any medical condition or disability that could impact their ability to communicate with officers during a traffic stop. one can access a completion form through the Illinois Secretary of State’s website and submit details. This information will then be printed on their vehicle registration linked to their license plate, making it easily accessible to law enforcement officers through the Law Enforcement Agencies.
Morrison’s motivation for advocating for this legislation
Morrison’s motivation for advocating for this legislation stemmed from her personal connection with a former high school student who is now in college. This individual’s twin brother has autism, and Morrison witnessed first-hand the struggles he faced when approaching law enforcement.
For example, he could be worried about being pulled over and the driver not making eye contact, which could be misinterpreted by police. As a result, Morrison recognized the need for training within law enforcement to prevent such scenarios and ensure individuals like her friend’s brother are treated with understanding.
Henry Lyte, who also contributed to the bill, explains that individuals with autism face significant challenges during traffic stops. In addition to the stressors that everyone experiences in this situation, they also have to actively process sensory information such as flashing lights, and sirens. These added demands can be overwhelming for people with autism, who may struggle with processing multiple stimuli at once.
As more states continue to adopt legislation that protects the rights of individuals with autism, organizations such as Illinois Autism Center also work tirelessly to ensure proper treatment and educational opportunities for those on the spectrum. We provide quality ABA therapy for children with autism and resources for families and educators.