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Just one vision defect increases risk of accident

 Study revealed that 81 per cent of those who had at least one problem was involved in an accident

Can stringent tests for visual ability reduce the number of accidents? The answer is an obvious and resounding ‘yes’, but most motorists are not subjected to vision tests.

In a recent study, a team from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) tested a sample size of 387 motorists most of whom were drivers from the Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and private transport companies.

Crash histories

The team studied previous crash histories of the drivers and tested their visual abilities on the following parameters: colour vision, binocular vision, depth perception, contrast sensitivity, glare recovery, horizontal field vision and vertical field vision.

The study revealed that a little more than half — 52 per cent — had at least one vision defect. The study said that 81 per cent of those who had at least one problem in vision were involved in some sort of accident.

Licence renewal applicants as well as a few IISc. volunteers were also among those who were tested.

While commercial drivers are tested for visual acuity alone, non-commercial drivers need to just give self-certification.

“The way the eye test is done is not enough for medical requirements for safe driving,” says Ashish Verma, professor at IISc. “The idea is not to eliminate drivers, but identify ones with vision defect and ask them to go for corrective measures. A lot of these defects can be overcome with some medical intervention.”

Glare from high beams

A major headache for most motorists at night is recovering from the glare of oncoming vehicles. In such situations, how fast motorists recover from the high beam trained on their eyes determines their safety.

The study raises the issue of medical tests for all drivers so that they recognise and address visual defects, such as depth perception, contrast sensitivity and glare recovery. Many of these defects can be treated instead of being left unattended.

“I usually travel between Bengaluru and Mysuru once a week,” said Deepthi R., a marketing professional. “There are several stretches where there is no lighting except for vehicle headlights. You get a continuous glare from oncoming vehicles since the median does not have proper plantation as well,” she says.

Glare is the sensation caused when bright light is flashed in front of the eyes and vision is blurred for a couple of seconds.

“Recovery from glare is important during night driving as oncoming vehicles use high beam. Glare increases time taken to react among drivers, compromising safety” explained Ashish Verma, professor at IISc.

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