Yet for many truckers, finding the time and money to go for an eye check-up can be difficult. This is why, since 2014, Sightsavers has been offering free eye health services to the drivers in a bid to improve road safety.
Bharat, a 36-year-old long-distance driver, is just one person who has benefited from the programme. He has been a truck driver since the age of 18 and for the past few months had been finding it difficult to see objects in the distance. His poor sight made him feel uncomfortable driving, but a back-to-back driving schedule meant he didn’t have the time to seek help, and he was unable to take time off work: his family of four rely on his salary, which equates to about £140/€155 a month.
To make it easier for drivers such as Bharat to receive eye screening and treatment, Sightsavers set up 235 eye camps in 10 cities. They are staffed by an optometrist, health worker and camp organiser, and are located in busy transport hubs such as Mumbai and Ghaziabad near Delhi, where the trucking community usually congregates.
The camps offer quick screenings that test drivers’ ability to see objects clearly, as well as checking for colour blindness and making sure their eyesight can adapt to varying light conditions. They also offer counselling and advice on treatments, and provide free spectacles for those who need them. These are delivered to the drivers’ offices, solving the problem that drivers face in planning where and when to pick up their spectacles while on the road.
The programme contributes to a United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.
Bharat was able to get his eyes tested at one of Sightsavers’ eye camps and was diagnosed with nearsightedness. To correct his vision, he was given free spectacles, which have proved invaluable.
“I can see everything now, even far-away objects,” he says. “I feel much more at ease while driving.”
As well as providing free eye screening and treatment for the transportation community, Sightsavers wanted to find out more about why truck drivers have problems accessing eye healthcare in India. Alongside our partners, we carried out a survey of people who attended an eye camp between April and December 2016: these eye camps screened more than 17,500 people for eye conditions. Almost all (98 per cent) were male.
The results showed that many of the drivers weren’t aware of the relationship between good vision and road safety, possibly because of a low literacy rate among the majority of respondents. Yet both truckers and fleet companies welcomed the free eye health services. Those that received treatment reported an immediate improvement in vision.