STEWARTSVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There is a push in New Jersey to allow people living with autism or a communication disability to voluntarily add a special marking to their driver’s licenses.
This could eliminate potentially dangerous misunderstandings during traffic stops and other encounters with police officers, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported Thursday.
Will Milazzo is on the autistic spectrum. The 23-year-old is in college, plays hockey, and has a part-time data entry job.
About a year ago he got his driver’s license.
He has never been pulled over by police, but he’s confident he’d tell an officer about his autism.
“I prefer to just inform them,” Milazzo said.
Some New Jersey lawmakers want to give Milazzo and others like him the option of putting a symbol at in the bottom of their driver’s licenses to indicate autism, a voluntary addition that could clear up potential communication problems during traffic stops.
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Milazzo’s mother, Kelly, said she’d never push her son to do it, but she likes the concept.
“What if he got pulled over? Kelly Milazzo said. “His way of processing could be absolutely misinterpreted as aggressive or noncompliant and that could go bad very quickly.”
“They may not be communicating. They may be communicating too much. They may have a heightened stress response,” said Dr. Suzanne Buchanan of Autism New Jersey.
Buchanan said a variation of this is working in a handful of other states, but for privacy reasons added it should never be mandatory.
Having the driver’s license reflect autism is only part of it. The plan would also mandate police officers receive extra training, Carlin reported.
“That’s going to improve every interaction, right? Unless chance of an altercation or interaction to go badly,” Kelly Milazzo said.
Carlin asked Will Milazzo how he thinks officers should approach him or anyone with autism.
“How about being loyal and polite to them?” he said.
The next stop for the proposed legislation is the state Senate.
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