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Road safety begins with eyesight

Essilor International has signed a three-year partnership agreement with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (International Automobile Federation) to promote and raise greater awareness of regular eye tests in the interests of road safety. At the last edition of MIDO, the group wanted to gain a deeper insight into the issue with a conference called “Road safety begins with eyesight”. We touched on this issue again with one of the speakers, David Navarro, Vice President of Global Strategic Projects of the French group and Head of the Essilor-FIA partnership.

Could you tell us more about the agreement with FIA? Every day 3500 lives are lost: Road deaths and injuries are a global health issue that’s still growing. In 2015, Jean Todt, president of the FIA, was appointed United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety and mobilized a sustained global commitment to fight against road accidents. As a leading world organization, the FIA has officially made Vision part of the Road Safety agenda by the adoption in 2017 of the new golden rule: “Check your vision”, and it is now one of the 11 well-known recommendations (“obey the speed limit”, “don’t drink and drive”, “don’t text and drive”, etc.). It is a major step toward tackling a clear lack of awareness. We realize that, on average, 1 in 5 drivers, worldwide, cannot see well and the ratio is even higher in some countries. Regulations on vision requirements for getting or renewing a driver license differ significantly depending on the country. It seems obvious to say that vision is critical for taking decisions on the road and reacting in time, and yet, you see, there is a lot to do. Everyone should be concerned about improving their vision on the road by appropriate visual correction and by protecting the eyes from glare on sunny days or at night. It is also a positive message: seeing well is a fantastic experience! Joining forces with the FIA demonstrates Essilor’s engagement in road safety and it is totally in line with our mission to improve lives by improving sight. The 3-year partnership gives the needed time frame to create this change, calling stakeholders to join and, as a result, be stronger to reach every road user in the world.

Last September you launched the international campaign “Road safety starts with good vision”: could you tell our readers why you decided to start this project? If “Check your Vision” is the compelling FIA golden rule, the objective of the global campaign Essilor / FIA “Road safety starts with good vision” is to provide the key messaging on what good vision on the road means through different materials translated in many languages (official video, posters, leaflets, toolkits, etc.) and through three simple recommendations: Check your vision regularly, Protect your eyes from glare, Wear appropriate glasses on the road. In order to make the message more obvious and bring it closer to people, the campaign is iconic in that it shows a crash-test dummy, the universal symbol of road safety, preparing for a safe trip by wearing clear glasses or sunglasses. Its name, revealed at MIDO, says it all in one word: MAX, max vision, max safety. We wish our ambassador a long and famous life!

How will this campaign develop internationally during 2018? The campaign is expected to achieve global reach in 2018, starting with the activation in some key countries of different regions as front runners that can help others to get inspired. We believe that the real impact and long-lasting success of this strategic alliance largely depends on local collaborations between Essilor and FIA-affiliated clubs, promoting the campaign and mobilizing stakeholders in the optical and mobility worlds to reach all road users (eyecare professionals, authorities, driving schools,…) . To quote some of them: the collaboration with ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia) in Italy announced at MIDO, with RACE in Spain announced at Expooptica, with WIAA-FIAA in India, with which we have been collaborating since the 2017 World Council of Optometry, with TCB in Belgium through an eye screening campaign held during the Brussels Motor Show.

How will you support the golden rule “Check your vision” introduced by FIA last year? We recommend that every driver, every road user has his/her vision checked regularly. To perform “check your vision” you need a patient, an eyecare practitioner and a clear protocol for diagnosing a patient’s vision capabilities of being safe on the road. So the campaign urges the general public to be aware of the need for eye checks, and, at the same time, we need to mobilize eyecare practitioners to systematically promote the key link between vision and road safety with their patients. It is also a call to leading world organizations of optometrists and ophthalmologists to define and encourage international standards for better diagnosis that combines visual acuity, binocular vision, light conditions, glare sensitivity, contrast perception, etc. The support of these organizations will also contribute to advocating for better regulations. After a vision check, the second step is “Wear appropriate glasses on the road”, and we need to provide the solutions. In addition to the wide range of existing products, Essilor has identified road safety & mobility as one of its R&D priorities. Ranked by Forbes magazine in the top 100 most innovative companies for 7 years, Essilor’s capacity for innovation will also be at the service of road users’ needs. As special focus, developing countries are severely affected by road hazards/casualties. Essilor has been fighting for years to improve access to visual health for populations in need. “Eye Mitra” and “Vision ambassadors” are inclusive business programs that we would like to scale up so as to multiply the contact points for eye care and bring visual solutions to those populations.

You had an interesting conference on this theme during the latest MIDO. Why did you decide to choose this appointment? In line with Essilor’s mission and engagement in the partnership, it was our responsibility to lead the industry’s link to the global fight for road safety and the key role of vision as part of this challenge. The world class relevance and outreach of MIDO made it the perfect event for this purpose. But it was the outstanding commitment and talent of Essilor Italia and ACI that made it happen and be a success. The history of this partnership will always be linked to Italy where everything started with the announcement in September at the legendary Italy F1 GP at the Autodromo Monza, and is now setting the path for our community. I have to say I am deeply touched by the warm welcome and key support that MIDO has given to the cause. We are so glad that MIDO is also onboard!

In addition to the agreement with FIA, will Essilor continue in any other way to promote road safety? Road safety concerns each of us and is part of our responsibility as citizens. We are working for the engagement and ambassadorship of Essilor’s 67,000 employees all over the world through road safety policies and best practices, awareness about driving courses and, of course, regular eye checks and appropriate glasses on the road!

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