For drivers on the autism spectrum, dealing with high-stress situations involving car accidents or police officers can be catastrophic.
While the person with autism may mean no harm, a police officer could interrupt a meltdown or stress-coping mechanism as aggression, violence, or hostility, but a new bill is aiming to prevent that.
Back in 2019, a 22-year-old black man with autism was wrongly sentenced to 50 years in prison for a non-fatal car accident caused when he had a seizure, according to Boston 25 News.
Despite being an accident caused by a medical emergency, police believed the man had intentionally caused the accident and he didn’t have the social skills to understand what was going on, and ultimately, wrongly admitted guilt. While he was freed after two years, he received no compensation for being wrongly held in prison and will continue to have that conviction on his record, along with several years of probation.
That’s just one instance of a tragedy caused by a system that’s not equipped to handle drivers who are on the autism spectrum disorder. Thankfully, a new bill in New Jersey is hoping to reduce instances where police wrongly react to those on the spectrum.
The new bill, S-741, “Permits person diagnosed with autism or communication disability to voluntarily make notation on driver’s license, identification card, and in MVC registry.”
It also “establishes program to train law enforcement officers in interactions with persons with autism or communication disabilities.”
Allowing those with autism to properly identify themselves and training officers to respond appropriately could reduce the amount of wrongly imprisoned individuals and ensure those with autism feel safer when interacting with police officers.
The bill came after New York implemented a similar bill and residents in New Jersey heard about it. Residents sent letters and made calls to the New Jersey lawmakers, demanding the bill be created, according to app., USA TODAY.
In an interview with app., USA TODAY, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso said, “The reason this bill is important is because across the state we are now putting these special-needs registries in place for first responders, where if you’re coming into a home with a person who has autism, you know. But we don’t have that for police officers who are making a traffic stop.”
The legislation was quickly picked up and sponsored, with most people agreeing on its importance and significance. It could save lives and create a more inclusive and safe world for all people.Whizzco