Research reveals drivers are getting behind the wheel with uncorrected sight problems

October 2018

Up to 80 per cent of drivers in the UK break the law by not wearing their glasses when driving, according to research by Sightsavers to mark World Sight Day.

The research aims to raise awareness of the lack of access to eye care faced by an estimated 1 billion people in developing countries.

In the UK, almost 80 per cent of drivers surveyed who are legally required to wear glasses or contact lenses said they sometimes forget to wear them while driving. More than a third (35 per cent) said this happens on most days they are driving, and more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they forget to wear their glasses or contact lenses every week.

Just a fifth (22 per cent) of people required to wear glasses or contact lenses said they always wear them while driving.

Sightsavers argues that the human cost of not wearing glasses, known as uncorrected refractive error, is greater than most people realise, particularly in terms of road safety worldwide. The charity is working in India to check the eyesight of half a million truck drivers to minimise road accidents over the next three years. More than 200,000 people are estimated to be killed on India’s roads each year.

In 2016, Sightsavers screened more than 17,500 truck drivers across India and found that almost half (46.7 per cent) of the truckers who were driving without glasses needed them to see clearly.

In a smaller study, almost 63 per cent of drivers who took part in the programme said they had difficulty seeing distant objects and just over 37 per cent reported difficulty reading. As part of the project, 7,600 truckers have received free glasses to improve road safety as well as their quality of life.

Mafoune and her father.

World Sight Day 2018

On 11 October, we’re celebrating our sight-saving work that has changed lives worldwide.

About World Sight Day
Sandeep Kumar standing in front of his brightly colored truck.
Truck driver Sandeep Kumar had his eyesight checked at a Sightsavers camp in India. © Claudia Janke/Sightsavers 2018

Dr Sandeep Buttan, Sightsavers’ eye health expert who worked on the programme, said: “There are 9 million truck drivers and transporters in India – it is a huge industry here. We identified truck drivers as a group in need of eye care because they travel long distances, often in unsafe conditions and with little job security.

“Eye care awareness was really low. Truckers are not covered by the existing eye care services, which are often far from their travel routes and don’t fit into their work schedules. Some truckers had other eye disorders and diseases that needed to be referred to hospital. All parties were very receptive to the need for eye health. It has already made an impact and has huge potential to achieve more.”

It is estimated that 89 per cent of the 1.2 billion people with visual impairments worldwide live in low and middle income countries, where it can be hard to see a doctor or be treated.

Sightsavers’ Director of Programme Strategy Dominic Haslam said: “Treating people for something as simple as refractive error is not often seen as lifesaving, yet we know there are millions of drivers on main roads around the world who can’t see properly.

“This issue affects all of us, in every country of the world. The biggest difference for people in developing countries is that they are less likely to have access to good-quality eye health services, even glasses. These low and middle income countries are also the ones who are hit hardest by road traffic accidents and fatalities.”

To mark World Sight Day, Sightsavers is raising awareness about eye care issues so that everyone, everywhere has access to good eye health.

Indian truck drivers sit on the ground and relax in front of their trucks.

Helping truck drivers in India

Many of India’s five million truck drivers don’t have the time or money to get their eyes checked regularly, so Sightsavers runs eye camps to make sure they get the treatment they need.

More about the project

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About World Sight Day
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