NY Abandons Eye Exams For Driver’s License; Money An Issue In Decision

On October 5, 2011, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles enacted a new policy in which drivers do not need to prove that they can see.

Instead, State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner, Barbara Fiala, said that drivers will be allowed to “self-certify” that they have met the driving vision requirement. Looking at eye charts to verify that one can see 20 feet away is no longer necessary.

New York joins six other states, including Connecticut and Pennsylvania, which do not mandate vision tests when renewing licenses.

New York used to require motorists to show up every eight years at the DMV or their doctor’s office to take an eye exam.

This new policy has only been omitted for drivers renewing their licenses. New drivers are still required to take the vision test, and commercial driver license holders have to undergo medical and vision exams biyearly.

State Senator Patty Ritchie said that she is opposed to the new regulations since many people aren’t aware of the fact that their vision has deteriorated until they are forced to take a vision test. The change was caused by the “cash-strapped state” to boost driver license renewals online, she said.

“New York has made great progress in making our roads safer, including a determined effort to crack down on dangerous and distracted driving,” said Ritchie.

Ritchie isn’t the only person opposed to the new legislation. Groups like the AAA also disagree with the change in New York.

“The most critical faculty for safety when driving is good vision,” said AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair. “Because of illness, injury, or the natural deterioration of eyesight that takes place after age 40, it’s important to have regular checkups to ensure good vision. With the new regulations, conceivably, a person could go decades without having vision checked.”

Commissioner Fiala said that New York State did not require eye tests between 1993 and 2000, and road safety saw statistically no adverse effect.

By having drivers renew their licenses online, the state doesn’t have to share any money with the county clerk.

When motorists go to their local DMV, the state gives the county about 12 percent of the $62.50 license renewal. When it’s done online, the county gets nothing in return.

The number of license renewals varies from year to year. Last year, there were about $2 million licenses renewed in the state of New York. Therefore, if everyone in the state were to renewed their licenses online or through the mail, the state would get to keep an additional $15 million that would otherwise go to county governments.