House lawmakers voted Thursday to approve a new system to help law enforcement identify people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
House Bill 84 would, at an individual's request, add a designation to his or her driver's license that he or she is deaf or hearing-impaired. That designation would also be added to the registration information of any vehicle in that owner's name. The identifier system would be completely voluntary. Deaf or hearing-impaired people would not be required to participate.
"This is to address concerns that many of us know about of people who've been injured, even killed, because someone did not realize they were hearing-impaired or actually deaf," explained sponsor Rep. Cynthia Ball, D-Wake, "so that the officer that stops that vehicle will have some advance information, perhaps, about the individual's impairment."
Ball was referring to the August 2016 incident in which Charlotte resident Daniel Harris was fatally shot by a state trooper in his own driveway after a short chase during which he failed to pull over as directed. He was approaching the officer despite the officer's warnings. An investigation found the officer committed no wrongdoing and followed standard procedures.
The measure also includes additional training to help law enforcement personnel recognize deafness or hearing impairment when no indicator is available. The measure passed unanimously and now goes to the Senate.