SPRINGFIELD – Drivers with autism or other disabilities that impede effective communication would have the peace of mind that an officer would recognize their condition during a traffic stop, thanks to a measure sponsored by State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest).


“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,” Morrison said. “That can quickly lead to a stressful situation for both the driver and the police officer.”

Morrison’s measure would create the opportunity for drivers to disclose a medical condition or disability that could impede effective communication with a police officer.

The space provided on an application for a vehicle registration would include a checklist of common health conditions and disabilities that hinder effective communication as well as a blank space where an applicant may specify a condition not listed. The information would then be printed on the person’s vehicle registration and be put in the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System.

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

The idea for the legislation came from Henry L., a Wheaton North High School student whose twin brother is on the autism spectrum.  

"I often worry about what would happen if lights and sirens lit up behind him. Would he move his arms rapidly as an officer approached the car? Would he avoid eye contact when asked for his license? How would a police officer react to his unexpected or perhaps even inadvertently non-compliant responses," Henry said. "Since autism is a hidden disability, how would an officer ever know that my brother is communicating the best that he can? In short, I am afraid that some of the very behaviors that help my brother cope with high-stress situations could be tragically misinterpreted." 

House Bill 4825 passed the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously Tuesday.