Essex County Honors Autism Awareness Month With Special Seatbelt Covers

Photo: Courtesy of the Essex County Sheriff's Office.

BEVERLY, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — To honor Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, the Essex County Sheriff's Department is offering free medical alert seatbelt covers, intended to help first responders quickly identify people with autism in a vehicle.

The seatbelt covers read, "I have autism. I may resist help."

The unique seatbelt covers are available at a sensory Touch-A-Truck event at Endicott College in Beverly on Sunday, an event that's sponsored by the Endicott College Public Safety & Police Department and the Beverly Police Department, officials said.

Police say that the cover wraps around the part of the seatbelt that goes around a passenger's chest and is secured by a Velcro strap.

The Sheriff's office says they have about a thousand covers in stock, and are giving them out to anyone in Massachusetts or New England who needs them.

"We can make it easier to make sure they get the care they need, it's a win-win for everybody," said Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger, "Car accidents are scary for anyone and can be particularly traumatic to someone with autism. These covers are a simple and easy way to make a difficult situation easier for all.”

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Officials say they have already received hundreds of inquiries into the seatbelt covers, something they say shows just how needed the fabric is.

"When police and firefighters respond to a car accident, time and information are of the essence. These seatbelt covers will act as an alert to first responders that the person may need extra care and support during the emergency response,” Coppinger said.

Coppinger says that officers have protocols and trainings that will kick in once they know someone they're helping has autism.

"In recent years police in-service training that every officer in the Commonwealth has to go through, have included courses on autism and how to provide care to folks suffering from autism," Coppinger said.

Those that are unable to make the event in Beverly can submit a request to the Essex County Sheriff's Office contact Gretchen Grosky at

WBZ's Suzanne Sausville (@wbzSausville) reports.

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