New York abolishes eye test to renew drivers license

Reuters News

9/27/2011 3:18:49 PM - Reuters News

By Holly McKenna

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New Yorkers will no longer be required to take an eye test to renew their driver's licenses under a rule change that takes effect on Wednesday.

State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala said her agency will allow customers to "self-certify" that they meet the driving vision requirement.

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

Under the old rules, motorists could take a simple eye test at state or county DMV offices, or submit an eye test performed by their own doctors.

The eye test has been abolished only for drivers renewing their licenses. New drivers still have to take a vision test and commercial driver license holders must undergo medical and vision exams every other year.

The change is part of the DMV's effort to push more motorists to renew their licenses online or by mail.

State Senator Patty Ritchie of the upstate New York city of Ogdensburg, a frequent critic of the DMV, urged the agency to keep the eye test requirement, citing safety concerns about drivers whose eyesight may be deteriorating.

"The vision test requirement -- once every eight years -- is a mild inconvenience for motorists that makes our roads safer. Eliminating it just doesn't make sense," said Ritchie, a former St. Lawrence County clerk whose duties included running a DMV office.

As a clerk, she said she witnessed dozens of cases of motorists who first discovered their eyesight had deteriorated when they appeared at the county DMV to renew their licenses.

According to Fiala, eye tests were not required in New York State between 1993 and 2000 and road safety was not affected based on statistics.

Also opposed to the change is AAA New York State, the automobile drivers' organization, which also cited safety concerns.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)