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New Florida Law To Identify Hearing-Impaired Drivers

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."

Christina is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.