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The noisy car breakdown that I couldn’t hear!

roadside tips for deaf driver

Imagine your car breaking down on the side of a busy road in the dark, when your phone is low on battery and texting is your only means of communication due to hearing loss…

That’s exactly what happened with me a few months ago!

As you may know, I’m a fairly new driver and passed my driving test back in October, and I brought myself a lovely, little, used Fiat 500, which I call, ‘Bella.’

The breakdown

I was driving home one day from the city – along a busy, single carriageway on a dark, winter’s night – when something just didn’t feel right with Bella. I pulled over on the side of the road, in a layby, and thought I’d forgotten how to drive! When I started Bella up again I ensured I got the clutch and gears right, but it still felt really bumpy. I kept driving about a mile or so, but Bella gradually got slower and slower…. until eventually I had to stop.

This all happened during rush hour, so I had to figure out how to safely exit the car. I kept all eyes on the road and leapt onto the grass verge. Then I saw the problem. A lovely flat tire with a missing wheel trim! I grumbled as I thought to myself how I could not realize it! Guess that’s something they don’t prepare you for in driving lessons…

Communication difficulties

It was freezing, so I quickly texted my Mum. I was trying to text her the car breakdown number that I was given, when I realized I had 30% battery left. My Dad was working an hour away, and luckily my Mum was at home. She was concerned because of the time it takes for texts to get through, and in a situation like that, every minute counts.

She was able to contact a friend to drive out to fix Bella’s tire. In the meantime, my Mum was trying to get hold of the Breakdown company on my behalf, who weren’t replying to either of the numbers. All the wile, she was trying to reassure and comfort me over text message. Eventually, my Mum’s friend managed to replace the flat tire with the spare one and I was able to drive home.

I wasn’t even covered!

When I got home, I explained all the frustrations to my Dad as to why the breakdown company didn’t reply to me, then my Mum relayed that the insurance company said the policy was out of date and I wasn’t even covered! She tried to contact the garage, but they were about to close for the day. The next day, the garage explained it all and revealed that my breakdown cover wasn’t due to start until a year or so later, which it was the first we’d heard of it. Ridiculous!

My Dad complained and tried to explain to both the garage and the breakdown company about how a complex situation like that needs to be easily accessible for me. Do you know how frightening it is for a young, deaf girl in a broken-down car on the side of a road at night to not know if someone is coming to the rescue? It could have unthinkable consequences.

“Do you know how frightening it is for a young, deaf girl in a broken-down car on the side of a road at night to not know if someone is coming to the rescue?”

My emergency roadside advice for deaf drivers

Obviously, being a new driver with a hearing loss, and as someone with little knowledge about car mechanics, it was quite a frightening experience for me. I don’t want any other deaf person to go through it. So, here is my advice for someone who may face a similar situation.

  1. Plan ahead. When looking into breakdown insurance coverage, review how you can get in touch with them. Ensure there are different contact methods suitable for your hearing loss (i.e. text/email/Whatsapp or phone calls). Determine how you can contact the right personnel, and make sure that they will come to your assistance when needed.
  2. Do a test. If your insurance or emergency roadside service provides contact information, test the numbers! Consider doing the test late at night, as you could breakdown at any time. Explain that you are deaf and you’re just trying the number out to see if they respond and how quickly. 
  3. Bring a backup phone charger. Always make sure your phone has a full battery. I’ve learnt my lesson on that!
  4. “Listen” to your car. If you feel like your car is acting differently, pay attention. Don’t drive for a mile with a bumpy car as I did. Pull over safely straight away!
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Ellie Parfitt
Ellie was born profoundly deaf, uses verbal communication, lipreads and wears Phonak hearing aids. She is currently learning British Sign Language. Ellie hasn’t let her disability stand in the way and embraces every new challenge. Her deafness didn't prevent her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as excelling in her education, working as a Marketing Executive for a Spa & Health Club, Events and Promotions Staff for a local newspaper as well as blogging for Hearing Like Me. She is passionate about deaf awareness, campaigning for equality and helping others through her personal blog as Deafie Blogger.

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