Can Deaf People Drive? - Some Surprising Facts

Written by the Nano Hearing Aids Team
Reviewed for Accuracy by Lindsay Roberts, AuD.

Lindsay Roberts
Can Deaf People Drive? - Some Surprising Facts

When it comes to deaf people or people with hearing loss to some degree, a common question always keeps circulating. Can deaf people drive? Are deaf people allowed to drive? People have always questioned the ability of deaf people to drive, and many even tend to give judgment on their own. However, the answer is, Yes. Deaf people can drive safely, and being deaf doesn’t prevent someone from driving. Some might even argue that deaf people have an increased ability to drive safely.  

How do Deaf People Drive 

There is a common misconception among the public that you won’t drive safely if you can’t hear properly. But it’s been shown in studies that being deaf has no adverse effect on someone’s ability to drive. There are many ways deaf drivers can drive with proper safety. 

Drivers with hearing loss use special devices that alert them when emergency vehicle sirens are sounding nearby. This system can also be used to detect car horns, and this gives drivers with hearing impairment the necessary notification they need to proceed with caution. Some devices use a panel with multiple indicators to distinguish between the different sounds out there. They can also use panoramic mirrors to enhance their visual perception, and give themselves a better sense of the other objects and vehicles around their automobile. 

deaf people driving

If deaf people were unable or prohibited from driving, they would be restricted in their access to employment and any necessary services. Driving is, therefore, a fundamental right to maintain for all people. 

Skills Drivers With Hearing Loss Possess

Some argue that deaf drivers are safer than those with good hearing. Research indicates that being deaf enhances an individuals’ peripheral vision. As driving is primarily a visual activity, this supports the ability of a deaf driver to operate a vehicle effectively. Visual cues are essential elements in driving for all individuals, and deaf drivers can use these cues in their driving to stay aware of any approaching emergency vehicles; or other drivers' movements. Deaf drivers have consistently shown that they can drive as safely as hearing drivers, if not more.

Deaf Drivers and Safety

Many wonder how a person with hearing impairment can drive without hearing audible cues such as an ambulance needing the right of way, a police siren, or even a horn honking. There are several ways around this problem such as using electronic devices in the car that alert them, using a lighted panel, to detect sounds from outside the vehicle. Also, simply paying attention to visual cues, such as the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle or signals from other drivers on the road, like noticing other drivers move to the side of the road is a strong indicator of an approaching emergency vehicle.

People also wonder how a deaf person would communicate with a police officer if they get pulled over. Some deaf drivers carry state-issued cards in the United States, to let police officers know that they have impaired hearing, and suggest ways to communicate. However, many people with hearing loss find the cards unnecessary, especially if they’re good at lip-reading. 

And finally, studies have shown that deaf drivers are no more likely to be involved in car accidents than drivers with good hearing, and it’s because driving is mainly a visual activity. Plus, there’s even some research suggesting that deaf adults have better peripheral vision than hearing people.

Deaf People’s Right To Drive

The right to drive is not a trivial one, as, without it, deaf people will get restricted in their ability to work and access community, medical, and other services. The deaf community has had to fight for these deaf driving laws. In the 1920s, when states adopted their first motor vehicle laws in the United States, laws that denied deaf people the right to obtain driver's licenses were enacted in several states. By educating people that deaf drivers pose no threat to public safety, the National Association of the Deaf and its state committees were able to won the repeal of these discriminatory laws.

While in all 50 U.S. states people with hearing loss have the right to drive, they still face discrimination in some aspects. For instance, UPS refused to hire deaf drivers because of safety concerns until 2006, which a federal court ruled to be unfounded eventually. Also, some deaf people have even reported being denied the ability to rent or test drive a car. Others find that if they become involved in an accident, it can be harder to prove they weren’t at fault since many hearing people assume that deaf people can’t drive safely.

The World Federation of the Deaf found out in a 2009 report that, out of 93 national Deaf organizations surveyed, 31 indicated that Deaf people are not allowed to obtain a driver’s license in their country. A number of the 93 countries surveyed did not respond to the questionnaire, not to mention that there are nearly 200 countries in the world in total - making it unclear exactly how many countries deny deaf people the right to drive. An earlier WFD report cited 26 respondents who indicated that deaf people aren’t allowed to drive in their country, which is often misinterpreted to mean that all other countries except these 26 allow deaf people to drive. It is important to note that this is not correct, and the actual number may be substantially higher.

Hearing Aids

Final Words

From the discussion, you know how hearing loss doesn’t affect one’s driving ability, and so, people with hearing loss can drive safely. With the help of different technology, such as hearing aids and other things, they might drive even better than people with good hearing. So, they must be given the right to drive globally, not just in the states.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How does a deaf person learn to drive?

Ans: Many deaf persons can lip-read to some extent, and instructors may also use written material and sketches to assist students in learning to drive.



Nano Hearing Aids has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial privacy policy.
Motor Vehicle Laws in United States (1920s)

The World Foundation of the Deaf statement on deaf people’s right to drive a car or other vehicles (2009)

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