Atlanta man blinded by side rearview mirror accident

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What happened to Abdul Jones the night of May 5th, 2017, is still hard for the Atlanta 37-year old to believe. One minute he was driving home from his job as an electrician for the City of Atlanta, car windows down. The next, he says, he couldn't see out of his left eye.

"I was completely blind, and there was no one around to help," Jones remembers.

As he came around a curve on Martin Luther King Drive, a mile from his house, a driver coming the opposite direction swerved into his lane and sideswiped Jones' 2005 Cadillac.

"He knocked the mirror off, and it flew into my face and shattered," Jones says.

The impact sent shards of glass deep into Jones left eye, damaging his cornea, pupil, lens and retina.

"It happened so quickly; I didn't know I'd lost my eye," Jones remembers.   "I just thought it hit me, and I was seeing stars, and, as I pulled over to the side to stop the car, because I couldn't see anymore, I realized that my eye was gone."

The other driver never stopped to help. Rushed to the Grady Trauma Center, Jones underwent emergency surgery to try to save his eye. But Grady's Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Yousuf Khalifa, who was working that night, says the damage was devastating.

"When you have glass that penetrates the eye, it can be very irregular, the laceration," Dr. Khalifa says. "So, the surgery tends to be a little more challenging."

This wasn't the first time Dr. Khalifa has seen this kind of eye trauma. 

So, he and one of his residents began to look through his patient records.

They found Abdul Jones was just one of 3 people brought to the Grady Trauma Center with major eye injuries in a two-month period between early May and early July of 2017. 

All 3 were riding with the car windows down, when their exterior side rearview mirrors were hit and shattered.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates the safety of motor vehicles, mandating the glass used in automobile windshield be laminated to reduce the likelihood the glass will shatter and fly apart in a crash.

"Those same regulations don't apply to a side-view mirror," Dr. Khalifa says.

So, Khalifa says, if you are driving with windows down, and your side mirror is clipped or hit, the glass can spray into the car.

"If you're not wearing glasses, or sunglasses or regular prescription glasses, that glass can penetrate into your eye and cause a severe trauma," Khalifa says.

He recently wrote an article about what happened to Abdul Jones and the other two Grady patients in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology. 

Dr. Khalifa says he would like to see more research conducted into side rearview mirror eye injuries, and would support changing the design standards to make side-mounted rearview mirrors less likely to shatter.

For Abdul Jones, it's a been a long, difficult two years. He's had 5 major eye surgeries, and has had to give up his career as an electrician because of depth perception problems. Recently, he went back to work, this time as maintenance worker. If it rains, or he works nights, he says, he can no longer drive. So, he takes Uber, at about $40 for a round trip.

"I can see shadows out of this eye," Jones says.  "But, as far as vision, I don't have any."

He still can't believe, he says, driving with the windows down would be so costly.

"I never would have thought of it in my wildest dreams," Jones says.