When you get into a car, ride a motorcycle or bicycle, or take a walk, do you give thought to your vision health? In other words, do you think about how healthy your eyes are at that exact moment or whether the bus driver next to you can see clearly? Perhaps you should. According to an analysis by Boston Consulting Group, more than 23 percent of drivers around the world are driving with uncorrected vision.
Additionally, are you aware that more than 1.35 million deaths and 50 million injuries occurred on our world’s roads in 2018 during a decade when the United Nations was pushing countries toward a safer roads agenda? The fact remains that, even today with all the efforts made over the past ten years, 85 percent of countries still lack adequate laws to counter the growing rates of traffic deaths and injuries. Ninety percent of road traffic fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries, and road traffic accidents are projected to be the eighth leading cause of death by 2030. They are currently the leading cause of death for all people around the world ages 5 to 29.
And while road safety has always played an important role in society, it seems that safe mobility has gained more of the spotlight lately. Road trips are at an all-time high, as air travel has diminished significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Goods and services still need to continually flow, and road usage has become increasingly significant. While many people worldwide continue working from home, essential workers and others must navigate the roads daily to reach their jobs. It goes without saying, without safe roads many of these people and services may not reach their destinations.
So is there any good news?
The United Nations recently declared the years 2021-2030 as the new Decade of Action for Road Safety. This declaration reaffirms the UN’s commitment to working tirelessly to implement a new road safety agenda by the year 2030. Notably, for the first time, the declaration includes a call to ensure that road users throughout the world have GOOD VISION. This addition was strongly based on a proposed road safety mandate prepared by the European Inland Transportation Commission in February 2020 – a tremendous leap forward for vision care!
Knowing that good vision and safer driving are inextricably linked, as vision advocates we can also play a role in helping to solve larger societal issues presented in the UN resolution, which suggests we should focus on road safety as:
Preventable road accidents cause both personal hardship and a strain on an already burdened public health system. This is particularly poignant during a global pandemic.
Unsafe roads have a global economic cost of nearly 5 percent of GDP annually. According to the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Report, the global economy will lose at least US$12 trillion by the end of 2021. In an era where economies need to use resources to recover from the devastating economic fallout of the pandemic, any savings here could make a positive impact on a country’s economy.
As those with more limited economic resources are most often pedestrians and cyclists, they are disproportionately affected and vulnerable to crashes with road traffic. As a result, they may lose their jobs due to personal injury or lack of transportation. Unemployment and lack of independence all but ensure the poverty cycle continues.
The good news is that GOOD VISION, and the role each of us plays in ensuring awareness, accessibility and affordability of care, can serve as a catalyst for addressing issues far beyond just wearing a pair of spectacles. The good news is that GOOD VISION is being recognized outside our sector as fundamental to a society’s health and wellbeing.
This year, the UN resolution expanded its focus on road safety to address a much greater societal need. By ensuring that all road users have good vision, we are further encouraging a more productive workforce and a more equitable future for all.
Now that’s what I call Hope in Sight!