BEING TEXT OF AN ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT NIGERIAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION, DR DAMIAN ECHENDU AT AN ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE FEDERAL ROAD SAFETY COMMISSION (FRSC) CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA ON 23RD MAY, 2016
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, and the entire membership of NOA, I wish to thank the Corps Marshal/Chief Executive, Boboye O. Oyeyemi MFR, mni, for the opportunity granted us to pay this visit.
The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) is the umbrella body of no fewer than 3,600 Doctors of Optometry, across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.
Established since 1968, it serves as a membership resource for information and educational opportunities, providing valuable public information on vision-related issues, and lending a common voice on issues affecting the profession.
We are a signatory and a subscriber to the global Vision 2020: Right to Sight, a joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020. We are equally involved in the WHO’s Global Action Plan to reduce avoidable blindness by 25% by 2019, in conjunction with an international membership of NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations.
In line with these plans, the NOA engages in several pro-health programmes in Nigeria, such as:
• Eye Care Awareness Campaigns
• Mentorship Programs
• Corporate Community Services
• Policy Formulation & Monitoring, etc
Our overall goal is a world in which no one is needlessly blind, and in which those with unavoidable vision loss can attain full potential all-round.
The Impact of Poor Eyesight on Driver Behaviour: Accident Numbers
It’s estimated that 1.2 million people die and 50 million are injured in road accidents each year throughout the world. Good vision plays a central role in the interaction of three key factors for safe driving – man, environment, and vehicle. Yet many drivers are unaware that visual difficulties increase as light conditions change, underlining a lack of information about the role of sight in road safety.
Good eyesight and visual perception are fundamental for safe driving. It’s estimated that 23% of drivers across the world have uncorrected vision and need to wear glasses to improve their visual capacity while driving. Any visual impairment will affect the ability of a driver to see road signs clearly (close and at distance), react to other road users quickly, and anticipate certain driving maneuvers. In fact more than 90% of decisions made behind the wheel depend on good vision.
People with visual impairment often compensate for their difficulty, for example by avoiding crowded rush hour conditions/driving in the dark or adjusting driving speed. Slower driving still cannot compensate for reduced ability to recognize road signs, hazards and pedestrians.
Studies have investigated the risk factors for crash involvement.
A 2008 report into road accidents in Italy found that 59% of accidents could be linked to causes associated with poor sight – such as failure to use corrective lenses or glare-related reasons. A European analysis of health-related risk factors in road accidents, found that risk of car crash increases by 9% with visual impairment and is higher for drivers whose visual function worsens as they get older. Also in 2012, approximately 2,048 drivers in the UK were involved in a road crash due to poor vision causing 2,874 casualties. These road accidents cost the UK an estimated £33 million a year. One can only imagine the cost, road accidents impede on Nigeria every year due to poor vision.
Currently, there is poor awareness of vision standards among Nigerian drivers, as well as the role of eyesight and visual perception in road safety or driving. It is easy to see how these pose an issue to those who use vehicles throughout the day. Looking at the figures we have received from developed countries regarding poor vision and driving, one can imagine the personal and socio-economic impact of poor vision arising from road accidents in Nigeria. This calls for more roles for optometrists, and also more regulations to be put in place in regards to road safety and the visually impaired.
Greater public awareness of the importance of visual health is critical, as is mass screening to identify problems that can be corrected. Most visual impairments can be treated with cost-effective services, for example with corrective eye glasses, to reduce the personal, social and economic burden of vision loss.
Partnering With the Nigerian Optometric Association
FRSC is known for issuing and implementing guidelines under its enabling laws on safety of Nigerian drivers and pedestrians on the roads and creating a system to protect
them. We believe that such services can be harnessed by NOA in ensuring that it contributes its quota in the development of Nigeria’s economy and in safeguarding lives and carnage on our roads.
NOA is committed to improving road safety and raising awareness of the dangers of driving with poor eyesight. We believe regular eye test will lead to a healthier nation and safer roads.
We can work together in many ways–in detecting drivers with vision challenges, making access to eye care easier and cheaper for them, carrying out annual audit on impact of poor vision to our country, creating eye health awareness campaign with emphasis on the road safety benefits, getting government and legislators pay more attention on vision and driving, etc. It is in this respect and other areas not mentioned that we express our interest in forming a partnership with the FRSC.
Thank you once more for your warm reception.
Dr. Damian Echendu OD, LL.B, MSc. FNOA