The 700 Year Old Invention which will Save Lives

James Chen
Jul 26 · 3 min read

It really is quite frightening. Hundreds of thousands of lorry and light commercial vehicle drivers cannot see well enough to drive safely. Those of us involved in the world of vision care have long suspected it. But now we have proof, and one of the world’s biggest companies is prepared to do something about it.

Shell India and the social enterprise VisionSpring have committed to work together to help 365,000 drivers and other transport workers see clearly by the end of the very symbolic year 2020–20/20 being the measure of perfect vision. This collaboration is going to do wonders for our campaign to help the world see clearly, and will make next year an even bigger year for vision.

As part of the #DriveSafeIndia initiative, drivers, mechanics and allied workers across four states within India — Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — will get free vision screenings, affordable eyeglasses and referrals for serious conditions.

It follows a survey by VisionSpring that found that 25% of drivers failed to meet the standard for vision required for a driver’s license. It showed that, without eyeglasses, these drivers were unable to see road signs at 20–30 metres and meet the Indian Motor Vehicles Act eligibility requirement (of 6/18 vision or better) for both eyes.

During follow-up interviews with 385 drivers, 68% reported that they had never had a vision test which is required for a driving license or license renewal. After getting glasses for the first time in their lives, 76% of the drivers articulated that driving safely and optimal job performance would be the most important results of their new clear vision.

The Clearly campaign is seeking funding to carry out a comprehensive randomised controlled trial showing the link between the provision of glasses and better road safety.

Shell and VisionSpring are leading the way, and I would like to thank them for all they are doing for this ever-pressing issue. Hats off to them both!

I agree with Nitin Prasad, Country Chairman of Shell Companies in India, who said, “We, at Shell India, are committed to creating an ecosystem that encourages safe behavior on India’s roads. We look forward to other companies, individuals, and organizations joining us on this journey to make India’s roads safer.”

And I strongly agree with Ella Gudwin, President of VisionSpring, who said: “Eyeglasses were invented 700 years ago, and today they offer a powerful, cost-effective solution for one of our most pressing health and safety problems — deadly traffic accidents. Eyeglasses are a road safety intervention, literally sitting right in front of our eyes. Imagine how many lives could be saved with a simple pair of glasses. But not enough people are wearing them. “

This is a great move forward. Let’s hope that others follow their example.


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