Deaf Drivers !!!

What do you think? Should Deaf persons in Jamaica be allowed to drive? Read our "Questions and Answers on Deaf Drivers" and voice your opinions in our user forum, "Deaf and Driving".

Questions and Answers on Deaf Drivers

If an Emergency Vehicle is coming, how can a deaf person hear it and move out of the way?

Deaf drivers are very visually aware as their vision is the sense they rely on as a matter of course throughout their lives. Deaf drivers monitor their rear view mirrors regularly when driving. In addition to specialized sounds, Emergency vehicles also employ flashing lights which can be readily seen by a deaf driver who is more visually cued than a hearing driver. They may also take cues from other motor vehicle drivers who get out of the way of oncoming emergency vehicles.

How can a deaf person hear warnings from other motorists who sound their horns to alert attention to danger?

Motorists have a visual based practice of using hand signals to indicate to other drivers that they are about to stop or slow down. Another wide spread practice of Jamaican motorists is to flash their lights. These visual cues are very helpful to all drivers, including the deaf.

How can a deaf person cope when an oncoming vehicle is coming around a blind corner?

Our road code is very clear on which side of the road we are supposed to drive as well as the speed at which we should drive. Once these rules are adhered to by all road users, there should be no problem negotiating blind corners.

If a deaf person is in an accident, how can anyone help them if they don’t know sign language?

Like all hearing drivers, deaf drivers need to be English language literate in order to obtain a drivers’ license. Written communication or even gestures is a good alternative to sign language when communicating with the deaf. If the deaf person is badly shaken or unconscious, they may not be able to communicate effectively. In this case they should be given medical attention as soon as possible, as with any hearing person. In doing so please remember that deaf persons rely on their hands to communicate and so they should not be restrained in a manner that will prevent them from moving their arms.

How will the police communicate with a deaf driver if they do not know sign language?

All drivers, as well as our police, are able to communicate using written English. All drivers should also be aware of the need to produce various types of documentation if the police request them at a spot check. Many deaf drivers also report that the police are very adaptable and willingly use gestures to supplement verbal requests. There are a few police officers who have taken courses in sign language and so are able to carry on basic conversations with the deaf. In more complex situations, an interpreter is always the best option. These can be provided by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf at 968-6781.

How can the Licensing Authorities determine that a deaf person is capable of driving?

Deaf persons will be subject to the same tests as hearing persons, but with a few adaptations. For example, when determining a deaf person’s literacy ability, a written comprehension passage and accompanying questions may be more appropriate than reading aloud. Sign language interpreters should also be an option when the examiner is giving or requesting information.

Shouldn’t deaf persons have some special adaptations to their vehicles?

Where deaf persons have been driving in other countries, special adaptations to their cars have not played any significant role in determining their driving effectiveness. Many deaf persons do opt for a panoramic rear view mirror and utilize side mirrors on both sides of their vehicles.

Shouldn’t deaf persons have identifying markers on the vehicle to alert other road users?

Identifying markers may make deaf motorists more vulnerable to opportunistic thieves. These markers may also make it more difficult in borrowing or renting cars without these markers. There will however be a notation made on the deaf person’s driver’s license alerting the police that he/she is deaf.

Are deaf persons able to drive any type of vehicle?

Yes. Deaf persons are able to drive cars, vans, SUV’s etc.

Can deaf persons make good judgments for driving e.g. managing the expenses in purchasing and maintaining a car or planning long distance trips?

Deaf persons are capable of learning the information needed to budget for a vehicle of their choice. When planning long distance trips deaf persons will be able to make driving judgments just like any other person and judge their own fatigue levels.

What makes deaf persons good drivers?

Deaf persons do not have any problems with making judgments and are cognitively intact. As with all drivers, as long as they are able to make good decisions based on the regulations laid out in the road code there should not be any barriers to deaf persons gaining drivers’ licenses. Driving is predominantly a visual/motor activity, which actually places deaf persons at an advantage. The vast majority of deaf persons have very keenly developed visual and motor skills because of their heavy reliance on their eyes and their hands in their daily activities. Statistics from many countries where deaf persons have been driving support the claim that deaf persons actually have better safety records than hearing drivers.

To express your support or concerns regarding the Deaf and Driving, please participate in our ongoing forum "Deaf and Driving." or participate in our poll "Should Deaf Persons Be Allowed to Drive in Jamaica?"

For further information on the Deaf and Driving in Jamaica, please contact the Jamaica Association for the Deaf at 970-1779.