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Monday, May 24, 2021

New Jersey Driver License Bill


In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people.  Sometimes they occur on the road.  A number of ASD people drive cars.

Jerry Carino at The Asbury Park Press:
In 2019, a 22-year-old Virginia driver with autism was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a car accident. Due to a communication breakdown at the scene, police — who were unaware of driver Matthew Rushin’s autism — determined he intentionally caused the crash.

Rushin later was pardoned by Virginia’s governor, but the case left a deep impression on Marlboro’s Deb Fisher. Her son Jay has autism, functions well enough to drive and has experience with a traumatic misunderstanding.

“That age was coming up when Jay’s going to start driving,” she said, “and I was really nervous about his independence as far as driving and what would happen if he were to be pulled over and in any kind of stressful situation.”

In late 2019 she caught wind of a New York bill that provided a simple solution: a voluntary notation on a driver’s license that informs police of a person’s autism.

“I thought, what a great idea,” Fisher said.

Thus began a campaign of letter writing and phone calls. A year and a half later, a similar bill is on track to become law in New Jersey. The bill, S-741 in the state Senate and A-3191 in the Assembly, permits people diagnosed with autism or a communication disability to voluntarily make a notation of it on their driver’s license and in the motor vehicle commission’s registry, and establishes a program to train law enforcement officers in these kinds of interactions.

It has cleared the transportation committees with bipartisan support and could get sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk sometime this summer.