By David Chesoni
Driving requires good visual acuity and clarity. Any problems with your eyes can significantly impact your ability to see and react to road hazards. A driver’s ability to see and interpret road signs, other vehicles, and pedestrians is critical to their safety, as well as the safety of other road users. Therefore, it’s essential for motorists to prioritize their eye health and schedule regular eye checkups.
A recent eye screening exercise conducted in five counties on drivers of Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) last year revealed that at least 40 percent of the 900 drivers screened had unattended eye problems. This points to a major road safety challenge because these eyesight defects no doubt hinder the drivers’ visual judgment as they may not see oncoming vehicles in good time and this reduces reaction time.
According to the 2022 Kenya Health Demographic Survey (KHDS), visual impairment is the most prevalent disability in the population with the burden being heavier on those aged 50 years and above. The Lancet, a medical journal, states motorists with poor central visual acuity are 46% more likely to have a road traffic incident than people with normal vision.
This necessitates regular eye checkups and correction of visual impairments for motorists especially public transport drivers as a way of enhancing safety on our roads. However, there exists a huge challenge in ensuring that drivers undergo regular examinations. For one, such examinations involve a huge cost, logistical resources, expertise, and sustainability.
Then there is the issue of behavior change to encourage participation.
This calls for a multifaceted approach that prioritizes safety, compliance, professionalism, and community well-being. At scale, such an approach would benefit drivers, passengers, organizations, and the broader society by creating safer roads, enhancing public trust, and promoting overall public health.
Through partnerships with various stakeholders, organizations can create a comprehensive and sustainable approach to minimize road carnages on our roads. This approach not only ensures the safety of drivers and passengers but also contributes to improved road safety and overall public health. By extension, reducing road accidents translates to better livelihoods, fewer economic losses, and pressures on healthcare and auxiliary services.
By leveraging the strengths, expertise, resources, and facilities of different organizations, these partnerships can help enhance road safety and contribute to overall public health.
Eye checkups require specialized equipment, trained professionals, and infrastructure. By partnering with healthcare institutions, optometrists, or NGOs, the necessary resources can be pooled to ensure comprehensive and accurate eye examinations.
Healthcare organizations and professionals bring their expertise in conducting thorough eye examinations. They can identify potential vision problems that might not be apparent to the untrained eye. This expertise ensures that drivers’ vision issues are accurately diagnosed and treated.
Partnering with established and reputable healthcare providers adds credibility and trust to the eye checkup process. Public transport operators are more likely to participate in the screenings when they know they are being conducted by trusted medical professionals.
Car and General has a long-standing partnership with the Lions Sight First Hospital through which we have conducted numerous eye checkups in various parts of the country. One of the challenges we have encountered in these initiatives is the reluctance to participate by the same groups we aim to help.
Some drivers are not readily willing to undergo the examinations fearing doing so would be tantamount to admitting unsuitability for their jobs, which might jeopardise their source of livelihood if their employers found out.
Partnering with the transport operators Saccos and associations, NGOs and other community organizations could help unlock these bottlenecks since they have strong connections with local communities. Their involvement can also help in reaching out to raise awareness about the importance of regular eye checkups among public transport drivers.
Partnerships can help distribute the financial burden of conducting eye checkups. Public transport drivers might not have the means to afford regular eye exams, but by collaborating with healthcare institutions, the costs can be reduced or subsidized, making it more affordable for drivers.
Another important component of these eye checkups is data sharing and analysis. Healthcare partners can provide valuable data analysis capabilities. They can track trends in drivers’ eye health, identify common issues, and propose targeted interventions. This data-driven approach can lead to more effective and tailored solutions.
And lastly, through partnerships, we can create a sustainable framework for regular eye checkups. By establishing ongoing relationships between the government, public transport players, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders, a continuous system of eye health monitoring can be established.
The writer is managing director, trading division, Car & General