Oregon goals to maintain deaf drivers protected throughout site visitors stops

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – A deaf driver is stopped by the police. The officer approaches the car. The driver does not respond to commands.

The situation escalates, sometimes with fatal consequences. It’s something that deaf people worry about.

“They are afraid to communicate with law enforcement officers for fear of being shot if they pretend not to listen to police officers’ orders,” said Steven Brown, vice president of the Oregon Association of the Deaf.

The Oregon Senate unanimously passed legislation on Monday to prevent such situations from developing. It was also passed unanimously by the House earlier. It enables a deaf or hard of hearing person to have this recorded on the registration of their vehicle and on their driver’s license.

“The intent behind the move is to provide law enforcement with this information before they come into contact with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing,” said Lindsay Baker, deputy director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, in support of the bill .

If Governor Kate Brown signs the bill, before going to the vehicle, police officers can tell that a driver is deaf by going through the license plate in their database.

The Oregon legislature’s action comes amid an increased awareness in the nation of how interactions with the police can go horribly wrong.

In 2016, a North Carolina soldier shot and killed Daniel Harris who had become deaf after attempting to stop traffic.

“There have been too many tragic incidents between law enforcement officers and the deaf,” Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, told NBC News after Harris was killed.

Like Oregon, some states have taken action.

Last year Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bills to improve police interactions with people with autism or other communication barriers. From July, under the new laws, they will be able to receive a notice about their driver’s license, registration or ID card to alert the police to possible communication difficulties.

In Ohio, people diagnosed with a communication disability can volunteer to enroll in a database to inform law enforcement about their disability.

“We want everyone in Ohio to know about this law and how it helps keep the safety of people in our community who are having difficulty communicating,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted last year.

David Barovian, who is deaf and hailing from Hillsboro, Oregon, told lawmakers here that if he had a note of his deafness he would feel more secure.

“This would help a police officer or emergency person know that I can’t hear them,” Barovian said. “I would be less concerned if I was stopped by a cop for any reason.”


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