Being hearing-impaired or totally deaf does not necessarily make you a more risky driver. Besides the use of devices that help minimize the risks associated with driving deaf, compensating for hearing loss in other ways also contributes to making deaf individuals more careful and alert drivers. If you are deaf, unless you have a poor driving history, have made at-fault insurance claims, or pose another risk factor that can raise auto insurance premiums for any driver, you should not be paying more for auto insurance.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with disabilities, including those with hearing impairments, may not be discriminated against. It’s important to remember that, like anyone else, a hearing-impaired individual must pass a state auto licensing exam, proving his or her ability to drive safely and effectively. A deaf individual cannot get a driver’s license unless he or she passes both a written and driving skills exam.
Special Devices Available to Deaf Drivers
Depending on your particular insurance carrier and the regulations in your state, an insurer may require that you make certain modifications to your vehicle if you suffer some degree of hearing loss. Some insurance companies also require a letter from your doctor verifying your ability to safely operate a vehicle.
When it comes to safety devices, equipping your vehicle with a panoramic mirror allows you to see more than you can with a standard rear-view mirror. Panoramic mirrors give deaf drivers a wider field of vision so that they can see what’s beside and behind their vehicles.
The use of a device with multi-light panels on a vehicle’s dashboard distinguishes between different types of sounds. Different light patterns tell the deaf driver whether someone is honking a horn or if a police car or emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance or fire truck, is approaching. Deaf individuals also remain alert for flashing lights, which help signal that an emergency vehicle is coming up behind them.
Hearing-impaired individuals who can no longer rely on auditory cues often develop more sensitive vision awareness. Driving relies on vision—being aware of what’s happening around you—and keeping your eyes focused on the road. Some research even suggests that individuals who are born deaf have better peripheral vision than people who can hear. Deaf drivers also generally concentrate more on visual cues and are sensitive to even slight vibrations.
Although a deaf driver who is licensed to drive cannot be denied personal auto insurance, an insurance company can deny you commercial auto insurance in certain situations. Under the laws set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an individual who wants to drive commercially must be able to hear a forced whisper—with or without wearing a hearing aide—at a distance of at least 5 feet in the ear with the best hearing. Hearing loss in the worst ear cannot exceed 40 decibels.
For more information, contact companies like Winder Insurance Center.