Eyesight and Road Safety

The ability of a driver to have good vision is an essential part of driver fitness. It comes as no surprise that good eyesight is crucial for safe driving. Your vision is key to responding quickly to potential hazards, judging distances, and reading road signs. If it’s poor, not only is your life in danger, but also the lives of those around you.

Most of the information we use when driving comes to us through the eyes, for example, the road we are travelling on, road signs, pedestrians and other vehicles. Our eyes control most of our movements and decisions while driving. Always make sure that your eyes receive good care and attention because poor eyesight becomes a safety hazard to yourself and other road users.

Good vision helps the driver to identify road hazards, read signs and see the dashboard. Awareness of common vision-related changes and problems can significantly improve the safety of the driver, passengers and other road users. Visual acuity and field of vision (visual field) are the most critical factors for safe driving. Visual acuity gauges how clearly you can see and can be measured by reading letters on an eye chart. The test tells you whether you need glasses or not, or if your prescription needs to change. Visual field can be defined as how wide of an area your eye can see when you focus on a central point. Additionally, colour vision helps you identify traffic signals and brake lights.

Normal, age-related eye changes may affect your vision and your ability to drive safely. Examples of such age-related changes include presbyopia, which may impact your ability to see your dashboard or navigation system, and dry-eye, which can reduce the quality of your vision at night. Other conditions that can impact your driving vision include: ear infections and sinus, high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy as well as cataract. Signs of deteriorating eye sight include constant headaches, blurred vision, not being able to focus as well as sore, burning or red eyes.

Eye care tips for safer driving include:

  • If you have prescription glasses or contact lenses for driving, make sure you always wear them;
  • Make sure your headlight glass is clean; that the bulbs are in good working order and that the lighting system is in the correct position;
  • Do not stare at oncoming headlights – it generally takes seven seconds to recover from the glare. This implies that when travelling at 100km per hour, you would travel for about 194m without seeing. Rather, look slightly to the left of the oncoming vehicle;
  • Have your eyes tested once a year to be certain that you have the visual skills necessary to be a safe driver;
  • It is advisable to wear professionally prescribed sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun glare.

It is your personal responsibility to make sure that you have the visual skills necessary to drive safely. Driving when you are in your 40’s and beyond is not like getting behind the wheel as a teenager. Aging has a tremendous effect on crucial safe driving requirements, like strong vision. Vision decline may happen gradually and can produce dangerous consequences on the road. Therefore, it is important to get regular eye examinations at least once a year, so your doctor can identify changes in your vision. Your eye doctor will be able to provide solutions that help improve your vision, so you can stay safe while driving. As part of Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe’s driver assessment programme, we do vision tests.

Eyes control most of the driver’s movements and decisions while driving. With good vision and visual comfort, the driver can drive safely by maintaining concentration. A significant number of motor vehicle crashes are caused by drivers’ poor vision. In fact, experts argue that drivers with poor eyesight have approximately 81% road crash involvement rate. Good driving needs a good vision. It is, indeed, your personal responsibility to be certain you have the visual skills necessary to drive safely.

The eyes, like the rest of the body, change throughout life. Good vision five years ago may not necessarily imply good vision today. Your eyesight changes over time, often getting worse with age. It is advisable to always assess whether your eyesight is still good enough for you to drive safely.

Inserted by TSCZ, Operations Research and Marketing Section

Readers can contact TSCZ on the following email: research@trafficsafety.co.zw 

The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe emerged from the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Board which originated from a voluntary organisation composed of area associations in Harare (then Salisbury), Bulawayo, Gweru (then Gwelo) and Mutare (then Umtali).

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