Have you ever wondered why nearly all cab drivers don’t wear eyeglasses? It is time to encourage them to go for an eye test.
Recently a leading Indian automobile manufacturer conducted a health check-up among taxi drivers at a major airport. Along with the standard health indicators such as sugar levels and cardiac conditions being all awry, the most shocking statistic was that a majority of those tested had poor eyesight. The manufacturer indeed handed out prescription glasses for free to many of those tested. But less than six months later when the manufacturer conducted a follow-up test what they found to their surprise was that a large number, in fact most of the drivers given glasses, had gotten rid of them. The overwhelming reason given for disposing for the glasses was that savaari (customers) distrust the driving skills and abilities of a person wearing glasses.
As someone who has been wearing glasses from class nine as well as someone who regularly drives insanely fast cars around the world, this columnist finds that argument specious. What was even more shocking was that taxi drivers are not the worst specimens of people ignoring their eyesight, that would be drivers of heavy vehicles, who are even more afraid of losing their jobs if they wear glasses. What an executive from this particular manufacturer, which was very keen to remain unnamed, mentioned something that anyone could test was to see how many people they knew in their circles who wore glasses (or contact lenses).
Try this yourself, how many of your friends and family members wear prescription lenses? How many of those can contemplate driving a car or operating any other piece of machinery without their corrective eyewear? The numbers will be close to a quarter for the first question and almost none of them can drive a vehicle without glasses. So how can a significant proportion of Indian commercial vehicle drivers and even drivers of private vehicles drive without glasses? That is truly a point to ponder.
The question is whether the authorities should test your physiological status in the first place before one gets issued a Driving Licence? Also, thereupon, we must ask whether the authorities, that is the Transport Departments of India’s various states and union territories have the bandwidth and abilities to conduct such tests?
The problem in India is that solutions that will work fine in the developed world get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of numbers. So when you take a driving test, one is tested for colour blindness and some distance reading abilities at least in Delhi, but with other states issuing a Driving Licence for a few hundred rupees placed in the right pocket, we have a problem. Of course, when you take an app-taxi nowadays you end-up doubting the basic driving ability of the man (or in the rare instance, the woman) behind the wheel but the question should be if that person is even fit to drive a car physically, particularly with regard to their eyesight.
What can be done is that the private car owners, who have drivers, can start to insist that at least they get their eyes checked. You trust the life of your family and yourself on these guys, so you owe it to yourself to ensure that if they need glasses they should get them. The fact is that if a jaywalker strolls onto the road the ability to react in time as a car driver depends on how quickly you identify the problem, and with poor eyesight?
Well, you get what I have been hammering on about. It would also help if app-based cab providers and other cab providers test their drivers for poor eyesight on a regular basis, and the same applies to those who have fleets of heavy vehicles and state transportation jobs. There are far too many accidents on India’s roads, far too many dead people every year. Insisting on eyewear may not dramatically reduce the number, but doing the little things can have a major impact on the big things.
And if you get into a cab where the driver is wearing glasses, thank him (or her) for taking the time and the effort to do the right thing.
Writer: Kushan Mitra
Courtesy: The Pioneer