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What people with mild to medium colour blindness need to be careful about while driving

National Road Safety Week: "The most common type of colour blindness is red-green which can make green look more red to some and red look more green and less bright to others," said Dr Shalinder Sabherwal

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
January 15, 2022 5:21:34 pm
Here's what colour blind drivers need to keep in mind before hitting the road. (Photo: Pexels)

Colour blindness or colour vision deficiency is the inability or decreased ability to perceive colour differences under normal light conditions.

“Color blindness can be of different severity. Some people with mild colour deficiencies can see colours normally in good light but have difficulty in dim light while others are not able to distinguish certain colours in any light. In the most severe cases, person sees everything in shades of grey,” said Dr Shalinder Sabherwal, Head of Community Ophthalmology and Associate Medical Director, Dr Shroff Charity Eye Hospital.

The expert added that color blindness is common in men, and almost 8 per cent of them have this condition. “As most have it since birth, a large proportion are not even aware of their condition. You must go for a test if you are not able to distinguish between red and green or blue and yellow colours, or if you find yourself having frequent disagreements regarding shades. Your ophthalmologist or optometrist would be able to diagnose this condition using simple tests,” he suggested.

Earlier, while people with any severity of colour blindness were not issued a driving license in India, in 2020, the ministry of Road and Transport announce that people with mild and medium colour blindness will be allowed to drive in India. “While this new law has come as a great relief especially in the time of pandemic when people may want to avoid public transport, there are certain things to be kept in mind if you or someone you know drives with this condition,” he stressed.

According to the specialist, the most common type of colour blindness is red-green which can make green look more red to some and red look more green and less bright to others. “Various studies have shown that up to 50 percent people with mild or medium colour blindness may have difficulty in negotiating traffic lights. It may take a split second more for those with colour blindness to respond than others. A simple approach is to memorise the order of red, yellow and green light in the signals. In spite of knowing the order, there may be problems due to sudden change in light or flickering of traffic lights. It is important to slow down while approaching a traffic signal so as to have time to confirm the position of light,” he suggested.

More than half of the drivers with these conditions may have more issues at night as distinguishing colour is dependent on illumination. This may also affect the ability to appreciate reflectors on the road in reduced illumination. So, while driving at night, you should purposefully drive at a slower speed. Similar low illumination conditions are present in heavy rain or snow and warrant same approach.

“Around 20 per cent people even with mild and medium color blindness can have issues with identifying brake lights and taillights turning on. That can result in accidents. Hence, if you have colour blindness, you should make sure that you keep adequate distance from the vehicle in front to get some additional reaction time to identify the vehicle slowing down or stopping,” Dr Sabherwal told

Some of the hazard signs are based on colours. These may include those for winding or steep roads, for possibility of animals expected on road or signs for construction zones. As recognition of these signs may be a bit slower, extra careful driving is advisable in these zones.

As the government has taken this important step which empowers people with mild or medium color blindness, it is the responsibility of people driving with this condition to take a defensive approach to driving and keep themselves and others safe on roads.

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