A review of all penetrating eye injuries treated by the Manchester Eye Hospital over four years (1 February 1982-31 January 1986) was undertaken. One hundred and ninety-six penetrating eye injuries were seen, of which 16 (8.2%) were due to road traffic accidents. Eight patients (nine eyes) were seen in the 12 months prior to the introduction of the seat-belt legislation on 1 February 1983. None of these patients was wearing a seat-belt whereas two of the eight patients (10 eyes) seen after the seat-belt legislation were. Both these patients suffered severe visual loss due to intraocular glass from shattered windscreens. Three patients had bilateral penetrating eye injuries, one before and two after the seat-belt legislation. Two of the nine eyes involved prior to the legislation and three of the 10 eyes after the legislation had an eventual visual acuity of 6/12 or better. In the majority of patients, failure to wear seat-belts or defective use is to blame. Flying glass from shattered toughened windscreens is a preventable danger. Nine of the 16 patients were first seen in the general accident and emergency department and, of these, seven did not have visual acuities recorded prior to referral to an ophthalmologist. The importance of measurement of the visual acuity and detection of an afferent pupillary defect is stressed based on these findings.
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