A new Florida law will give drivers the choice to identify themselves as hearing-impaired when registering a car or renewing a driver’s license. The hope is to ease tensions during encounters with law enforcement.
Starting Monday, police will be able to identify hearing-impaired drivers just by looking at their license plate through this voluntary program.
Two years ago, a hard-of-hearing driver was fatally shot in North Carolina, unaware of the siren of a trooper trying to pull him over.
This case inspired Tallahassee police lieutenant Robert Di-Gonzalez to work with lawmakers on a system for hearing impairment to be noted on licenses and to show up on tag checks.
Di-Gonzalez’s son was born with 40 percent hearing loss.
“Being the parents of a child that’s hearing impaired — that’s a big concern for us especially when he was learning how to drive,” Di-Gonzalez said.
The new law is the first of its kind in the country. Some states have tried hearing-impaired identification cards, but having a tag registry allows for officers to find out before confronting a driver face-to-face.
Ben Tobias, Gainesville Police Department spokesperson, has had experience dealing with people who are deaf or hearing-impaired.
“Personally, when I was working the road many years ago, I came into contact with somebody, and we had to go just a pen and paper,” Tobias said. “That was the only way that we could communicate because I am not fluent in American Sign Language.”
Tobias said he is touched by the story.
“To know that his son is a catalyst for this law is just truly heartwarming for me.”