Assemblymembers Wallace and Ryan Announce DOT Approves Road Signs to Protect Children with Autism

DOT’s approval follows months-long advocacy campaign, in response to concerns raised by local parents of children with autism
March 31, 2020

Today, Assemblymembers Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) and Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) announce that the New York State Department of Transportation has officially approved signage to alert motorists that a child with autism resides in areas of travel. Assemblymember Wallace, in conjunction with Assemblymember Ryan, urged the DOT to add the “child with autism” signs to its list of permissible road signs.

Research shows many children with autism are prone to wandering from their homes and often walk or dart into the path of oncoming traffic. In response to this risk, a Lancaster family recently sought to place signage outside their home cautioning motorists to exercise additional caution – only to learn that such signs were not permitted under state law.

“Last summer, it came to my attention that many municipalities had denied requests for signage that could save children’s lives because those signs were not permitted under state law,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “This is unacceptable. I immediately wrote a letter to the DOT commissioner urging that this signage be added to the list of allowable road signs and circulated a petition to demonstrate public support for these signs.”

Although some municipalities had erected signs warning of children with autism in the area, others like Lancaster and the Village of Hamburg had refused to do so because the signs were technically illegal. Now that the DOT has officially added a uniform traffic sign for children with autism, municipalities across the state are free to erect the signs upon request of a family, subject to whatever additional conditions a municipality determines are appropriate.”

“I want to thank Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez of the DOT for her swift attention to this critical safety issue,” Assemblymember Wallace said. “These signs have been added to the National Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, so that families of children with autism could legally erect those signs on local roads.

“Families of children with autism can be assured that responsible motorists will exercise caution while traveling in these areas,” Assemblymember Wallace added.

"I want to thank NYSDOT Commissioner Dominguez and Assemblywoman Wallace for their hard work that has allowed for this critical safety issue to be addressed," said Assemblymember Ryan. “These signs will help motorists identify potentially hazardous driving situations and likely save lives. I'm proud to support the successful effort to add ‘child with autism’ signs to the list of permissible road signs."

“The safety of all who use our roads – including motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians - remains our top priority,” said New York State Department of Transportation Regional Director Frank Cirillo. “We are pleased to have worked with our elected officials and residents for approval of the new ‘child with autism’ signs to help ensure the safety of children in our communities.”

If you are a parent or guardian who is in need of signage to protect a child with autism, contact the office of your local town or city government.