Road fatalities, particularly in India, are a key concern for a number of government as well as non-government authorities. A contributing factor to this is the stereotype regarding wearing corrective lenses. Among the circle of commercial drivers wearing spectacles isn't looked upon as a positive aspect. Vision Impact Institute, a non-profit organisation is breaking this very stereotype by making people aware that if they need spectacles or corrective lenses, they should wear one without being bothered about what other road users would feel or say.
According to Vision Impact Institute, there are 2.5 billion people in need of Uncorrected Refractive Error who don't have it. Knowing what the need of the hour was, VII was conceived to make people aware that wearing spectacles or corrective lenses is not essentially a bad thing. The awareness campaigns are being held in Europe, Africa, China and India. However, the alarming figure of 550 million for India encouraged the organisation to expand its activities here. Using scientific research based on high road fatalities and deaths, Vision Impact Institute makes people aware that not wearing corrective lenses can lead to an accident simply because the driver would not be able to judge the distance to an obstruction. In order to reach people with URE (Uncorrected Refractive Error), discussions with various driving schools are ongoing, particularly who deal with commercial licensing. In Delhi, as well as other states, the renewal of a commercial license is every three years. People with impaired vision who have long hours of driving each day without corrective measures for vision do pose a threat to other road users. The organisation looks at corrected vision for such commercial drivers in tandem with the driving schools.
Even for personal vehicle drivers, the timeline for renewal of license below the age of 50 years is 20 years. This structure of renewal of a driver's license, according to Vision Impact Institute, needs to be reduced as a vision of a person over 20 years can vary monumentally. However, people are unaware and there is a big gap of the age difference between commercial as well as passenger vehicle driver's licenses. Vision Impact Institute is first looking at what is really happening in the commercial vehicle segment with regards to the driver's licenses. Bringing about awareness about the stereotype of wearing spectacles and driving in the commercial vehicle segment, for now, is what Vision Impact Institute's key contribution is. In fact, in addition to the stigma of wearing glasses, the company is also working with CRRI-CSIR (Central Road Research Institute) in order to create awareness in commercial vehicle drivers that irrespective of their vision, they would qualify for an employment.
Countries like the United States have a system in place which suggests if the person holding that particular driver's license has any restrictions or not. The same would be mentioned at the back of the license, however, in India, there are no such restrictions. Such restrictions depend on how good the vision and if a driver is not fit to drive during the night or similar aspects where the vision is not fit for a certain parameter of driving. A solution like this can be implemented right away which would helpful in order to achieve the right time of driving, particularly for commercial vehicle drivers.
However, certain challenges do lie in the implementation of such rules. First part of the awareness is to set a research programme which would make people aware of the dangers of not having correct vision. The next would be to bring out statistics where people with URE (Uncorrected Refractive Error) have been responsible for incidents, finally, making drivers aware that wearing spectacles would only improve their employment options versus having impaired vision.
While the Indian automotive industry has evolved at a fast pace, the awareness for road safety, particularly with commuters hasn't. The thought of self-preservation is entirely missing according to Vision Impact Institute. Companies like CRRI have been running simulations to understand how to minimise the travel time for a road user. What Vision Impact Institute suggests is that if one has to consider road safety, that particular authoritative body should also look at the fitness of a driver.
In addition to this, the overconfidence of the driver also reduces the concern to drive safely on public roads. Even in other countries, the prime concerns are a step ahead of impaired vision such as using a phone while driving or Driving Under Influence. These aspects come after a license is issued, but if the vision of a driver is impaired, there is no proper authoritative body within the licensing offices that states if the vision needs to be corrected before going forward with the driving test. A basic exam is what mainly is the part. As per Vision Impact Institute, 60 percent of the accidents that happen globally happen due to impaired vision. India specific figures are that out of the 80 percent road fatalities in the country, at least one incident is due to vision impairment. That said, vision impairment is not just because of not using corrective lenses, but can also be due to DUI (Driving Under Influence) which not just reduces reaction time, but also reduces peripheral vision