Background: This study was carried out to investigate the relationship between the frequency of traffic accidents and impaired vision.
Materials and methods: Seven hundred and fifty-four drivers involved in accidents were recruited, in addition to 250 accident-free drivers similar in age and driving experience as an control group. The age distribution of the persons involved in traffic accidents (mean 56.3 years) was similar to that of the control group (mean 57.7 years), the difference was not statistically significant. Both groups underwent a complete ophthalmological examination.
Results: All three types of accidents (night-time accidents, violations of right of way, accidents during an overtaking manoeuvre) had a statistically significantly higher incidence of reduced photopic visual acuity, mesopic vision and an increased sensitivity to glare. Some other visual functions were also abnormal, with differences according to the type of accident. In particular, there were noticeable differences between the control group and those who were involved in night-time accidents regarding mesopic vision and sensitivity to glare. Concerning mesopic vision, 15% of the 261 persons involved in night-time accidents did not reach the contrast limit of 1:5; with glare, 20.7% failed. In comparison 4% of the control group reached this critical limit without glare and 7.6% with glare. These differences are highly statistically significant. In contrast to these findings, many of the drivers involved in accidents assessed their own visual capability as "excellent".
Conclusions: The results of this study show that reduced mesopic vision and increased sensitivity to glare are accompanied by an increased risk of night-time accidents (for example, collisions with a non-illuminated obstacle). This emphasizes the importance of regular ophthalmological check-ups including visual functions such as mesopic vision and sensitivity to glare, which currently are not required by the traffic laws in Germany.