Background: Vision play a vital role in driving where good and efficient visual functioning of the driver is essential. Any significant loss of visual function will diminish a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely and will thus contribute to road traffic injury. However, there is little evidence indicating that defects of vision alone cause road traffic accidents.
Objective: To determine the impact of visual impairment and other factors on road traffic accident among vehicle drivers.
Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted on 249 sampled drivers in Southwest Ethiopia. A pretested interviewer led questionnaire was used for interview and vision tests were done using Snellen's acuity chart and Ishihara pseudo-isochromatic plates. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS version 16.0.
Results: The mean age of drivers was 33.6 years (SD +/- 10.3). The relative frequency of self reported road traffic accident was 15.3%. The prevalence of uncorrected binocular visual impairment was 1.6% and there was a significant association between visual impairment and road traffic accident (P < 0.05). Uncorrected refractive error was seen in 7.6% and 8.8% of drivers in the right and left eyes respectively, and 3.2% of them had vision less than what is required to obtain driving license (visual acuity of 6/12). None of the drivers with refractive errors were wearing appropriate corrections. Color vision impairment was seen in 1.6% of the drivers. A significant proportion (9.6%) of the drivers did not have eye exam for their driving license.
Conclusion: Uncorrected binocular visual impairment was strongly associated with road traffic accident. There is need for consistent inspection and screening, strict rules and regulations of licensing and health education for drivers to minimize road traffic accident.