People with 'communication impediment' able to get designation on Michigan driving record

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Mason — Individuals with a communication impediment can have the designation placed on their driving record under bipartisan legislation that took effect July 1. 

The provision is available to anyone with a health condition that could inhibit communication with an officer, including individuals with deafness, hearing loss or an autism spectrum disorder. 

The implementation of the designation was announced by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Monday in Mason alongside Xavier DeGroat, an autism advocate whose own experience about five years ago during a traffic stop helped spur the legislation. DeGroat had an anxiety attack as a result of the interaction, he said.

"I didn't know how to react properly to the officer that didn't properly come near me with sensory-friendly interaction," said DeGroat, who founded the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation. 

Autism advocate Xavier DeGroat speaks about a communication impediment designation individuals with deafness or autism can get on their driving record at a press conference Monday, July 19, 2021 outside the Mason Secretary of State's office.

The designation is voluntary and free upon request with a certification from a physician, nurse practitioner, physical therapist or physician's assistant. The designation would not be placed physically on an individual's license or state ID, but instead would be placed on an individual's record and available to police during a traffic stop.

"Alerting law enforcement to the needs of the citizens they interact with helps ensure the safety and comfort of everyone involved,” Benson said in a statement.

She noted the initiative could help to decrease anxiety around interaction with police for people with communication impediments. 

The bills enabling the changes were sponsored by Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing and Rep. Frank Liberati, D-Allen Park.