Daniel Harris, age 29, was only steps from his home when he was fatally shot by police on August 18, 2016. He was caught speeding but didn’t notice the sirens coming from behind him as he drove home. He didn’t even notice the policeman as he got out of his car before he was killed. But Daniel wasn’t absent-minded. He was deaf. Unable to hear the police calls to pull over, he had paid the ultimate price.
This isn’t the only example of miscommunication having fatal consequences. In 2010, Seattle police shot and killed a Native American man who failed to heed their order for him to put his hands up.
Although these are extreme cases, they have brought to the fore a need to improve the lines of communication between the hard of hearing and law enforcement officials. It is natural for the former to feel anxious that they might be put into a similar situation down the line. If you experience hearing loss and are concerned about your safety on the road, consider getting an official visor card for your vehicle.
What is a visor card?
A visor card tells officers that you have a hearing issue and need special consideration when pull over at a traffic stop. They attach to the back end of your front windshield’s sun visor. In bold letters, it tells officers that you have a hearing issue and offers guidelines on how to successfully communicate with the driver.
Where do I get a visor card?
You may easily download or print a visor card from the Internet. The Center for Hearing Loss has designed two different visor cards. One is for those with mild to medium hearing loss and the other is for those who are deaf. This is important because officers will need to deploy different strategies of communication when dealing with both groups. Check out the visor cards here.
How do I attach my visor card?
To ensure your visor card is accessible when you require it, connect it to the rear of your visor with clasps or elastic bands. Arrange the card so it is easy to stop when the visor is down. Visor cards are intended to be discreetly stowed away while driving, yet easy to display without having to search for it in a glove compartment or underneath your seat.
In the event that you are stopped along a busy interstate, particularly one with limited space on the side of the road, the cop may go to the traveler side window since it is sometimes the safer option for them. To cover your bases, make sure you print two visor cards and attach one to each visor to make sure the officer cannot fail to see the sign.
How do I use my visor card if stopped by the police?
If you are ever pulled over by the police, follow these steps to ensure things go as smoothly as possible:
- Pull over to the side of the road and turn off your engine. If you are diving at night try to stop under a road light, or park into a lit stopping zone. This will make it less demanding for you to speech read officers demands.
- Quickly flip your sun visor down, unfasten the end by the rearview mirror, and swing it over so your Visor Card is obviously noticeable in the driver’s side window. Put both visor cards on display each time you are halted. That way, you have your bases secured, regardless of which side the officer approaches.
- Open your driver’s side window the distance. Also open the passenger’s side window if you’ve flipped that visor down too.
- In the event that there are no streetlights to be found, turn on your car’s interior light.
- Place both of your hands on the driving wheel before the officer approaches your vehicle. The safest place is to put them on the wheel is at the positions of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. This keeps your hands where officers can see them. Keep your hands on the wheel until after the officer has signaled he is aware of your special conditions. Have the officer take your Visor Card and read the directions on the back so he knows how to successfully communicate with you.
What not to do when stopped by police
Try not to rummage into the glove compartment for your license before it is clear that the officer wants you to do so. Police can misjudge your movements for reaching for a weapon if they can’t see your hands.
For more information about handling police during traffic stops, the ACLU has produced a helpful video with the actress Marlee Matlin on how to handle a traffic stop if you are deaf or hard of hearing. Check the video out on their website.
Armed with these tips, hopefully we will see fewer cases of miscommunication leading to inconvenience, stress or even tragedy for the hard of hearing. It is also important to ensure that you are hearing at your best. To schedule a hearing test and to get fitted for hearing aids, contact us today at Preferred Hearing Centers.