410 accidents every day, but how many of them are triggered by bad eyesight?

Newspaper: The Times of India
Date: 4th October 2017
Source Link: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/410-accidents-every-day-but-how-many-of-them-are-triggered-by-bad-eyesight/articleshow/60927260.cms

NHAI Starts Nationwide Eye-Testing Camps for Truck Drivers and their Helping Staff

NHAI Starts Nationwide Eye-Testing Camps for Truck Drivers and their Helping StaffGurgaon: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on Monday launched free eye check-ups camps for truck drivers with valid commercial licences, and their helpers and cleaners, across the country, laying down for the first time a nationwide measuring stick for eyesight among those behind the wheels.

Ashok Sharma, NHAI project director who was present at one such camp that was opened at the Kherki Daula toll plaza on October 2 and will run till October 6, said, said, "We want to reduce the number of accidents on roads. This is an initiative to ensure drivers' eyes are in a good state." The drive was officially launched in Nagpur by Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari. The NHAI will hold 50 such camps where spectacles will also be given to those who need it.

The Motor Vehicles Act 2011 is not stringent when it comes to vision tests. Present legislation is based on a conventional eye test where a driver has to read from a chart to a doctor. It does not include depth perception, colour or contrast tests. This has serious ramifications on road safety (410 was the average number of deaths caused by road accidents daily in India in 2016).

Ashish Verma, researcher at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru whose focus area is transport, welcomed said the NHAI camps were a welcome initiative but also pointed out deficiencies in the system that need correction. "Testing simple vision is not good enough. Doctors ask drivers to read letters but that tests only one aspect - acuity or clarity of vision. There are many other vision parameters that drivers should be tested on. The ability to see and measure distances is crucial for a driver. Commercial drivers should be able to measure the height of their vehicle and see whether there is proper overhead clearance or not. Drivers also need to see potholes on the road while driving. Commercial drivers need to have a proper vertical peripheral vision to spot autos, taxis and pedestrians on their side," said Verma.

The Motor Vehicles Act, he added, needs to be amended. "We all know that it is far too easy for drivers to get a vision certificate from a medical representative, without even going for tests. This is a hindrance to safe driving," Verma said.

A Central Road Research Institute study conducted this September, involving 500 commercial vehicle drivers in Delhi, showed 37% of the drivers experienced far vision limitation in the left eye, 36% in the right eye and 31% in both eyes. Similarly, a high percentage of drivers suffered from near-vision limitations. The study found drivers with such limitations were more likely to be involved in road accidents than those who had normal vision.

S Velmurugan, scientist and former head of traffic engineering and safety division, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), said, "Commercial vehicle drivers ideally should undergo an eye test every three years, whereas non-commercial vehicle drivers need a test depending on their age. We also don't have provisions to test the reaction time of drivers for various stimuli on the road."

Drivers abroad are regularly tested for colour blindness but there are no such provisions in India. The colour blindness test finds out if drivers can distinguish between red and green signals. The CRRI study showed 19% drivers were severely colour blind and 23% had mild colour perception problems. Field of vision, which is important for depth perception, is also not considered in India but abroad, grant of licence depends on it. A total of 29% Delhi drivers surveyed failed the depth perception test, according to CRRI.

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