Road traffic accidents are a leading cause of fatality worldwide, accounting for over 1.2 million deaths each year. With a staggering 1.5 million drivers in the UK alone estimated to have never had their vision tested, Essilor UK has launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the impact of poor vision on driving and make the nation’s roads safer.
Driving without clear vision: a global economic impact
In addition to the dramatic psychological consequences that the sudden loss of a loved one can have on family and friends, road accidents have a real economic impact. According to WHO’s Status Report on Road Safety in 2015, road traffic deaths lead to an estimated 3% loss of global GDP. In low- and middle-income countries traffic injuries and deaths can create a loss of up to 5% of GDP.
When it comes to frequent causes for road accidents, most people know that drinking alcohol and driving is an unhappy combination. Strong legal frameworks are applied in most countries and laws are more or less respected. Media spotlights the issue and people who drink and cause road accidents are publicly chastised. But there are other factors that impact road safety and poor vision is high on the list.
A recent report shows that drivers in India with uncorrected poor vision have a 30% higher incidence of road accidents than those with clear vision. Studies in several African countries have revealed that large numbers of commercial drivers on the road have vision that fails to meet the minimum standards required by law. And even though the correlation between road accidents and poor vision is higher in developing countries where the majority of the 2.5 billion people living with uncorrected poor vision live, the problem does not stop there. In five European countries, for example, drivers are not required to be tested by a medical professional or to undergo a sight test as part of their driving test or when re-applying for a driving license.
Road safety in the UK
One such country is the UK. A study conducted by the Road Safety Observatory estimates that in 2012, 2,048 drivers were involved in road accidents due to poor vision, causing an estimated 2,874 casualties and costing over $50 million. 1.5 million drivers in the UK are driving without ever having had their vision tested, risking their own lives and the lives of their passengers, other drivers and pedestrians. What’s more, a 2016 survey found that over 20% of motorists who need glasses or contact lenses always drive without them.
The Think About Your Eyes programme, sponsored by Essilor is calling on the Government to change the current legislation surrounding the vision standards required for driving to ensure all drivers are subject to periodic vision screening conducted by a qualified optical professional.
#DrivingBlind: an awareness campaign
To address this issue Essilor UK has launched a national campaign called #DrivingBlind. This is the second driving safety awareness campaign by Essilor following its first initiative in 2013. #DrivingBlind aims to encourage motorists to take their vision seriously, reduce the number of unsafe drivers on UK roads and help tackle health issues that can be detected as part of visual screenings.
Essilor and the campaign partners are urging the UK government to follow the lead of countries such as Italy, Spain and Turkey where drivers have to do regular eye tests, the frequency of which increase as they get older. The “Don’t Drive Blind Manifesto” can be found on the Think About Your Eyes website along with the “Driving Blind Riskometer” which helps people to evaluate the exposure to the risk of an accident due to impaired vision as well as how to best protect one’s eyes.
UK drivers in favor of a change in leglislation
In the context of a campaign event in a Birmingham shopping centre, 135 drivers completed a questionnaire which revealed the overwhelming support the public has for tackling this issue. Whereas 42% of respondents needed prescription glasses or contact lenses for driving, 9% admitted that they either occasionally or regularly drove without them. 84% agreed that they would support regular vision screening for drivers to help improve road safety. More than half of the people confirmed that they would not consider the current number plate tests carried out as part of the driving examination adequate to test a person’s vision for driving a car. Almost 90% agreed that a new driver should have a full vision test carried out by an optical professional as part of their first licence application.