Deaf culture

Deaf driving on the road

"Can Deaf people drive?" Hearing people sometimes wonder if Deaf people do drive. Contrary to general belief, Deaf people are statistically safer drivers in general.

deaf drivers
Cartoon by Matt and Kay Daigle. Website:

Our everyday observations can attest to this statistics. While there may be no formal study perhaps other than statistics (at this time of writing), a few available news articles can confirm, based on their observations which are something we've known long before.

A newspaper clipping, "Deaf people are among the best drivers":

"Deaf people make better drivers than people with normal hearing -- and they could be the world's safest motorists, a fascinating new study shows.

"That's because they compensate for their disability by concentrating on watching the road, the research showed.

"'They've got it all over us hearing people when it comes to driving," said a spokesman for the National Association of Driver Educators for the Disabled.

"'They've always taken in everything with their eyes and as a result they tend to see everything when they're at the wheel."

"And not being able to hear ambulance and other emergency sirens doesn't make deaf drivers unsafe at all. The study found that deaf drivers check their rear view mirrors frequently and can tell immediately if they should pull to the side of the road." -- Weekly World News, Lantaria, FL, April 25, 1995.

Another news clipping:

Deaf drivers news clipping

Wanna know even more? There are a few deaf licensed pilots flying their non-commerical planes. You're welcome to be aboard. To my best knowledge, a crash statistics is zero. *knocking on the wood*

Now you might think Deaf people don't talk while driving? Deaf people do chat while driving safely.

Deaf drivers talking via rear mirror
Image source: Jolanta Lapiak, 2017.

If a passenger sits in the passenger side, culturally Deaf drivers have a larger peripheral and sharper vision (that is different from hearing vision). If a passenger sits in the back, the driver glances at the rear mirror and the road back and forth at the right timing.

Ukraine-born Deaf Canadian leader David Peikoff (1900-1995) tirelessly advocated for the rights of the deaf people from employment to education. One of his campaigns in Canada was to defend the right for deaf people to have driver's licenses in 1931. [Canadian Deaf Heritage.]

"In 1948, an article entitled 'World's Safest Drivers' appeared in teh Ford Times, another boost for deaf drivers. And articles written in the 1960s by Sherman G. Finesilver, a Colorado judge, brought national attention to the safe driving records of deaf people." -- Canadian Deaf Heritage, pp 448.

"From what I heard he fought with the government and politicians, as has been mentioned here, over the rights of Deaf people to have a driver’s license. The government denied us that right saying Deaf people were not safe drivers, but David stood up to them. He got the insurance statistics and compared the safety record of Deaf people to hearing people and showed that Deaf people had very few accidents compared to the high number of accidents caused by hearing drivers. He proved that Deaf people could be good drivers and that we were safer drivers than hearing people. The politicians didn't know any of that and David was able to drive his point home. We were all very impressed with that victory and we are all very grateful to him." -- Keith. WCCSD.

Advice from Deaf people

Often I see hearing university students making a crossing without stopping or making eye contact. It's a common peevee at a particular location on the university campus where I teach ASL, especially a bicycle rider zooming across the road on bike without stopping, not even slowing down nor making eye contact. A rider on the bicycle is technically a driver, not a pedestrian. Anyway.

When eyes lock, it's safer to walk. One morning in 2017, I was driving behind a bus with an advertising message that was exactly what I wanted to tell hearing pedestrians, especially the university students! Yes! I'm delighted the hearing authority and we Deaf commoners share the same sentiment.

When eyes lock, it's safer to walk.

"When eyes lock it's safer to walk. Pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility."

Another advice, don't be busy with a smartphone (or an ol' dumbphone) while crossing the street. A brake could be suddenly broken. A driver could fall asleep or faint out. There could be icy on road that the car couldn't stop properly. Or, other possibilities. Pedestrian collision does happen.

Another advice, don't use a phone while driving. I can trust Deaf drivers using a videophone or text phone more than hearing drivers using a phone. *tongue in cheek*

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