ridicuLIST: Deaf People Cannot Drive

Posted by: Staff Writer on Oct. 23, 2013

Seatbelts on? Check. Gas tank at least a quarter-full? Check. Hearing driver? Hey, wait a minute! This checklist is as outdated as the dune and buggy system. Today, some folks still think deaf individuals can’t drive, let alone legally sit behind the wheel. 

"The patient will need a ride home after his procedure. Will you drive him home?" a clueless receptionist asks an interpreter in one of the viral "A Few Minutes in the Life of a ASL Interpreter animations.

Myth Buster: Deaf people are not only legally able to drive, studies show that they are safer drivers than hearing people. 

A few reasons:

  • Non-verbal tools: Wide-angle rearview mirrors, turn signals, warning lights, PSI, and indicators
  • Enhanced peripheral vision
  • Without verbal confrontations and blaring horns, a deafie’s road rage is limited to the occasional bird flip
  • Hearing drivers can be distracted by backseat drivers, earbuds, cell phones, and loud music

Ask a legal expert, like Colorado Judge Sherman Finesilver: "Hearing nor the lack of it is not a basis for safe driving.” In addition, if you ask an auto insurance underwriter, you’ll find that it is illegal for auto insurers to load (raise) a premium based on deafness. That is, unless the driver has other conditions that statistically increase safety risk: deaf-blindness, specific mental health issues, etc. Even so, in some countries, deaf drivers enjoy lower premiums.

Yet, did you know that until recently, deaf and hard of hearing truck drivers could not get their full Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)? A blog posting on Ask the Trucker brought to our attention to this ridiculous fact. On their website, they mention the surprising ways that remaining senses are used:

When a tire was rubbing against a piece of steel on the truck, the deaf driver was able to smell the burning rubber and stop the vehicle (early).

It’s the 21st Century, and car insurance for blind drivers is becoming a reality. Today, the “deaf can’t drive” hogwash is SO last century!

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