Comm Eye Health Vol. 13 No. 36 2000 pp 62. Published online 01 December 2000.

Letter. Car seat belts

Margreet Hogeweg MD DCEH

Spoorsingel, 95 2613 BC Delft, The Netherlands

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Dear Sir

In many places the main cause of corneal perforations in adults is vehicle windscreen perforations. Eye departments, which often carry out very little surgery, stitch these corneas after traffic accidents, with whatever sutures they have.

In many cars, even belonging to eye hospitals, the safety belts have actually been removed!

I have observed ophthalmologists who did not know how to put on the safety belts, while sitting beside the driver, in the front, as they never ever used them.

When I suggest putting on safety belts, professional eye care people and colleagues actually begin to laugh in disbelief! Also, the drivers are offended, as if I am suggesting that they are not good drivers.

As such perforations may well be bilateral, these can be a direct cause of blindness.

When I was training in ophthalmology in Holland, we learned how to repair corneal perforations during duties on Friday/ Saturday night. However, since the introduction of safety belts by law, such perforations are now hardly ever seen. Safety belts really prevent this type of injury.

The Journal should remind people of these facts. Eye care personnel should take the lead in campaigns for the use of safety belts in cars!

Reply – wear seat belts!

DD Murray McGavin, Editor

Dr Hogeweg’s concern exactly reflects the experience of the Editor who recalls inserting 80 sutures in one patient’s face after a windscreen injury – while working in Glasgow, Scotland – before the requirement to wear seat belts became law in the United Kingdom. This type of injury was dramatically reduced after the required use of seat belts was instituted.

Dr Hogeweg’s experience of astonishing reluctance to wear set belts by ophthalmologists was the Editor’s own discovery during a workshop in Asia in recent years.

We invite comments by our readers and challenge each one to encourage legislation in his/her own country – seat belts (or equivalent) must be available and must be worn!