Your life and eyes 4 min read

4 ways your vision can improve road safety

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Whether you’re walking, cycling or riding a motorcycle or scooter, vision can help keep you out of danger.

How much danger do these types of mobility present? Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that globally, more than half of the people who die in traffic accidents are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Africa has the world’s highest share of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, at 44% of all traffic deaths. In Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, most traffic fatalities are among riders of motorised two- and three-wheelers, such as motorcycles and scooters.

While drivers of cars, trucks and buses are at fault in many of these fatal accidents, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists must keep a close eye on their surroundings to improve their safety.

Incident involving a cyclist with spectacles on the ground

This advice from British optician Stephen Davies applies to cyclists but also could apply to pedestrians and riders of motorcycles and scooters:

“I think people are duty-bound to see as well as possible, even though there are no eyesight requirements for cyclists. If you can’t see properly, you are a risk to yourself and everyone else. If you need glasses for driving, then you need them for cycling as well.”

Here are four ways you can help ensure your vision is a safety tool — like a seat belt is for vehicle drivers and passengers — whether you’re walking, cycling, or riding a motorcycle or scooter:

1. Schedule regular eye exams

Regular eye exams can detect several vision problems, such as eye diseases or sight changes. A diminished ability to see can be a challenge when you’re walking, cycling, or riding a motorcycle or scooter.

A study published in the Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board suggests that pedestrians with 20/20 vision, a term that indicates average eyesight, can navigate sidewalks and roads more easily than pedestrians with 20/100 or 20/300 vision, for example.

If you have 20/300 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 300 feet.

An eye exam can determine whether your vision has gone from 20/20 vision to 20/100, for example. Based on the results of vision tests, an optician can prescribe new or updated glasses or contact lenses.

Also, an eye exam can identify diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Eye diseases and vision disorders can harm the eyesight of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle and scooter riders.

Eye care professionals typically recommend undergoing an eye test every one to two years, depending on your age and risk factors, and whether you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses.

2. Wear sunglasses

Man riding a bike wearing sunglasses

When you’re strolling down a street, pedalling up a hill or zooming along a highway, sunlight can obstruct your vision. That’s why it’s smart to invest in a pair of prescription or non-prescription sunglasses, particularly lenses with anti-reflective coatings and 100% ultraviolet (UV) protection.

Sunglasses can block harsh sunlight that might harm your ability to see, especially those with polarised lenses, which are best at reducing glare, improving visual clarity and reducing strain from the sun’s bright light.

“From a comfort standpoint, some people are very sensitive to brightness and glare,” Dr Kerry Beebe, an optometrist in Minnesota, in the U.S., says of sunglasses. “By cutting down brightness and glare, people will visually perform better and be more comfortable.”

Sunglasses also can prevent damage from UV radiation. Sunglasses labelled “UV 400” or “100% UV protection” offers the maximum protection against UV radiation.

“There’s definitely a fashion element to sunglasses that people look for, but there are health benefits to wearing sunglasses as well,” says Dr Elliot Levine, an ophthalmologist in Georgia, in the U.S.

3. Clean your glasses

Dirty lenses can inhibit your vision as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcycle or scooter rider. Here is a step-by-step guide to cleaning your glasses:

  • Thoroughly wash and dry your hands.
  • Rinse your glasses under a gentle stream of lukewarm tap water.
  • Apply a small drop of lotion-free dishwashing liquid soap to each lens.
  • Gently rub both sides of the lenses and all parts of the frames for a few seconds.
  • Thoroughly rinse both sides of the lenses and frames.
  • Gently shake the glasses to get rid of the water.
  • Carefully dry the lenses and frames with a clean, lint-free cloth or towel.

4. Equip yourself with the right gear

Woman wearing glasses waits to cross road

Improper eyewear can affect your vision when you’re walking, cycling, or riding a motorcycle or scooter.

For example, bicyclists and motorcyclists who wear dirty or scratched glasses, face shields or goggles might be hindering their ability to look out for cars, pedestrians, street signs, and roadway obstacles and hazards.

Be sure to fix or replace any eyewear or headwear that threatens your vision.

Benefits of protecting your vision when you’re on a bike, motorcycle or scooter include stopping bugs, debris and wind from getting in your eyes.

How vision affects your mobility

Follow the four tips above so you can see clearly whether you’re on the open road or off the beaten path.

After all, good vision is vital to arriving at your destination safely and sound — no matter how you get around. 

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