Do You Drive Blind?

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Road Safety

Sometime in, 2016,221 people made up of drivers and others enjoyed what in Nigerian parlance we call awoof. They were privileged to go through the compulsory eye screening jointly conducted by personnel from the Federal Road Safety Corps, Zone 6 headquarters, Port Harcourt, Rivers State and the Optometric Association in commemoration of the World Sight Day with the theme, ‘’Staying Strong’’. Besides the free eye screening, about 55 reading glasses were given out. A breakdown of the one-day event shows that a total of221 people made up of 187males and 34females were screened; a further breakdown shows that the number of persons above 18years was 211 while the number that received glasses was 50 made up of 47males and 3females.Out of the total number screened, 55 people made up of 53 males and 2females were referred.

Out of the total number of cases seen, some of the results were as follows;, Glaucoma(10), Myopia(10) and Hyperopia(60) .There were other findings such as  cases of cataract, presbyopia, bacteria conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis just to mention a few. My concern is however on these findings that have significant bearings on our ability as an Agency to promote a safer road culture in keeping with our statutory mandate as contained in our 2007 Establishment Act. Let me start with the first finding which shows 10people with cases of glaucoma. Glaucoma, I was tutored by my colleague affects the visual field of a person, which means all the points of a physical environment that can be perceived by a stable eye. Glaucoma literally can result to tunnel vision, a situation whereby the driver cannot see peripherally. Adequate visual field is very important for drivers as peripheral vision is needed for common driving tasks such as use of side mirror. Also glaucoma can affect central visual field as well resulting to the driver having hazy vision thereby knocking down a pedestrian or running into an oncoming vehicle.

   Therefore drivers with visual field defects show poorer performances with driving speed, steering stability and tune to collision. The second finding is the 10 people with myopia.

Myopia is called short sightedness; drivers who do not wear their prescription will be susceptible to having crashes because of their hazy vision. Night myopia is an increase in shortsightedness at night or low light levels. Drivers with this condition may be involved in night tune road crashes due to the inability to see glare (blazing light) from an oncoming vehicle. It is found that night myopia is prevalent in younger drivers and such drivers should be restricted from driving at night.

60 people had cases of Hyperopia: This is called farsightedness; here, the driver cannot see properly at very near and at a near distance. In this case, the driver might have difficulty in recognizing near targets such as the speedometer and pedestrians not too far from the vehicle especially at night and as well experience glare.

From the screening exercise, two cases worth mentioning are two drivers whose conditions were indeed frightening;the first one who is about 63 years of age claimed to have driven for more than 20years with vision on one eye counting finger (counting finger -cf)at 3 meters while the second one who was  referred was about 40 years of age, drives drunk and has high hyperopia (long sightedness) and therefore experiences  glare. These two cases are similar to the one that occurred some 10years ago at the, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja where a driver was actually driving with dark glasses at night until luck ran out on him   when they observed the driver had difficulty controlling his vehicle whenever there was an oncoming vehicle whose headlights obviously blurred the vision of the driver. After pleading to the driver to take off his dark glasses, a male commuter sitting by his side, smartly removed the dark glass. Shock was written all over the faces of the commuters when they noticed the driver was a one eye sight man.

 I couldn’t lay my hand on a research findings  on people driving without  prescribed glasses except the one I stumbled on  the  Daily Mail by TIM UTTON,  who raised the alarm that millions risk driving with bad eyesight.

In that report, he noted’’ that motorists who need glasses or contact lenses but drive without them increase their risk of an accident four-fold, A fifth (21 per cent) of motorists who need glasses or contact lenses always drive without them,37 per cent haven’t had an eye test in the past two years or more,’ Popping to the shops’ is the most common occurrence of driving without glasses or contact lenses,UK drivers risk invalidating their insurance, a £1,000 fine or could face prison if they cause an accident due to defective vision’’.I hope to deal with the report more but for now let us take a look at the provisions of the law here with respect to blind driving Seeing and being seen is one of the planks on which our campaign on safer roads stands. Available data on the state of the sight of most drivers is hard to come by in our clime unlike the case in developed climes

Before I refer to such data from the developed clime let me first guide you on the provisions of our laws.’’ Regulation 45(1) of the National Road Traffic Regulation 2012, states that An applicant for a fresh drivers licence shall furnish evidence of training at an approved driving school and a learners’ permit and shall be accompanied with a certificate of visual acuity test and general medical fitness test as prescribed in regulation 52(1) 0f the same Regulation. 

This is reinvigorated in Regulation 52(1) of the Regulation which states that: The authority shall not issue a drivers licence unless the applicant furnishes certificate of vision acuity test and general fitness from any government hospital in addition to first aid skill. Sub-regulation (2) went further to state that: the vision acuity and general fitness examination shall be as prescribed in form MVA 13 of schedule 1 to these regulations. Regulation 56(1) of the National traffic Regulation 2012 set out the procedure for conducting driving tests. Such driving tests shall determine the competence of the applicant to read at a distance of 23 meters in daylight (with the aid of glasses, if worn), a motor vehicle identification number plates.

In addition, Regulation 57(3) of the same Regulation states that an applicant for any class of drivers licence shall undergo visual acuity and general medical fitness examination. This shall include visual acuity and color blindness test which shall be carried out in any government hospital. Regulation 56(5) made it mandatory for all registered and licenced driving schools to follow the prescribed procedure for conduct of driving test in their curriculum in the interest of their students.

Regulation 59(3) states that driving test as prescribed under this regulation shall be applied by all licenced driving schools. Furthermore, regulation 111(2) states that before a person is selected as a driver or assistant driver of a school bus, he shall undergo a visual acuity and colour blindness test in any government hospital’’.