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Standing in the Gap for Vision on the World’s Roads

The topic of road safety is getting lots of attention. A quick Google search of news on the topic reveals an incredible energy and large number of innovative solutions in the conversation.

Just this week, a number of stories appeared — all highlighting ways to reduce road incidents. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, web-based awareness and educational platform E-Society launched an online road safety course.

The goal? To bring about positive change in human behavior on the road. In Ghana, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) collaborated with the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) and Africa Transport Safety Strategy Policy Program to launch the first-ever Accra Road Safety Strategy to reduce traffic deaths in the city by 2030. And in Namibia, the National Road Safety Council is aiming to integrate road safety into the school curriculum by 2020.

We applaud these efforts to care for the well-being of local citizens to solve a very real problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and between 20 and 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries.

It’s clear that road traffic injuries remain an important public health problem, particularly for low-income and middle-income countries. It is our goal to add vision as a key priority to many of the discussions that are already happening on road safety.

The task of driving is suggested to have a 90 percent to 95 percent reliance on good vision, and impaired vision is suggested to be associated with increased driver discomfort, difficulty and crash risk. A soon-to-be-published Systematic Review conducted by Professor Kovin Naidoo, et al. concludes that uncorrected refractive errors do, in fact, pose a risk to road traffic accidents. And a recent study in India shows that drivers with unacceptable vision test results were found to have an 81 percent crash involvement rate –30 percent higher than drivers with good vision.

While these stats are concerning, I’m certain we can close this gap. One way we’re mitigating this discrepancy is to advocate for eye exams around the driver’s license renewal process. This is an approach we’re piloting in India for commercial drivers, and we’re hopeful of the outcome.

The gap that exists between those who can and can’t see well on the roads represents an opportunity to not only save lives, but also to work across sectors toward solutions. It represents an opportunity to not only ensure people see well on the roads, but also, by default, allows them to have a better experience at school, work and home.

I encourage you to join us in standing in the gap for all drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists on the road by adding the topic of vision to your discussion on road safety.  It’s a mutually beneficial way that we can all work toward a unifying goal – safer roads and better lives for all.

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