Morrison floorSPRINGFIELD – Drivers with autism or other communication disabilities can now have better experiences during routine traffic stops, thanks to State Senator Julie Morrison.

“A routine traffic stop sparks anxiety for anyone – now imagine you are a driver who has autism or another medical condition that makes processing social cues and responding to commands difficult,” said Morrison (D-Lake Forest). “That can quickly lead to a stressful situation for both the driver and the police officer. It’s why it was so pertinent we ensured people can effectively communicate their medical conditions.”

Drivers now have the ability to easily disclose a medical condition or disability that could impede effective communication with a police officer. People can visit the Illinois Secretary of State’s website to access a form to disclose their health condition. The information will then be printed on the person’s vehicle registration associated with their license plate and be put in the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System.

The form – which will improve interactions with law enforcement to prevent the potential for unnecessary or unintentional escalation – comes after Morrison successfully passed House Bill 4825 last year.

“If a police officer pulls someone over and that person isn’t making eye contact or engaging in conversation, the officer may think the driver is being defiant,” said Morrison. “The reality, however, is that not every person communicates in the same manner. By designating a condition that impairs speech on one’s registration, a traffic stop will be a less stressful situation for all involved.”

Morrison worked closely with a former local high school student – who is now in college – whose twin brother is on the autism spectrum and was worried what would happen if he was pulled over and avoided eye contact. Together, they successfully put forth the legislation to enhance inclusivity by ensuring certain behaviors – such as avoiding eye contact – aren’t misinterpreted by police. 

“People with autism have to deal with the ‘everybody’ stress of a traffic stop but layered in with the need to actively process the hum of the road, the flashing of the lights, the whine of a siren as well as directions from the close-talking stranger who just caught them making a mistake,” said Henry Lytle, who worked closely with Morrison on the legislation. “House Bill 4825 makes traffic stops safer for my brother and other drivers with communication challenges.”

For more information on the certification for impaired communication with a peace officer disclosure, people can call the Illinois Secretary of State’s office at 1-800-252-8980.