New York backtracks on DMV eye test for license renewal

October 7, 2011 Heather Chin
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A controversial change in state policy that would have allowedmotorists to self-certify good vision instead of undergoing an eyeexam before renewing their driver’s licenses was reversed two daysafter it was announced amid public furor at the step.

On September 30, rather than eliminate the eye test requirement,Governor Andrew Cuomo and state DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fialaannounced that an advisory group of health, safety andtransportation experts to determine the best and most efficient wayto ensure that New York’s drivers possess the vision acuitynecessary for safe driving.

Elected officials and transportation activists were quick tolambast the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) decision,which went into effect last Wednesday, September 28, and would haveallowed New Yorkers to renew online and self-certify that theirvision met state driving requirements. The new rule was touted asmaking license renewal – which must be done every eight years -easier and more efficient for drivers.

But many New Yorkers believe the honor system should not apply whenpublic safety is involved.

It takes eight years for a license to expire, which provides morethan enough time for a person’s vision to deteriorate, saidAssemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. The DMV’s decision is puttinglives at risk by eliminating the vision exam for driver’s licenserenewals.

Thousands are injured and killed every year on New York streets,said Paul Steely White, executive director of the nonprofitTransportation Alternatives. We’ve made a lot of headway towardbringing those numbers down to zero but we still have a long way togo. We shouldn’t reverse course in an effort to save a fewbucks.

A spokesperson with the state DMV confirmed to The HomeReporter that people cannot self-certify while the advisorygroup deliberates.

According to licensed optician Lloyd Berg, who has practiced atVerrazano Vision at 8421 Third Avenue for over 15 years, thisreversal is a good thing.

One vision test when [you get your] license, which is in the lateteens and early 20s, doesn’t last throughout the lifetime, saidBerg, who said he sees around 15 to 20 people per week coming in toget an eye test renewal. If that really happened, the state wouldbe open up for tons of litigation. It makes no sense – the wholething takes five minutes if you pass and a little longer for aglasses prescription if you don’t.

In New York State, motorists only need 20/40 vision in order to gettheir driver’s license – not perfect 20/20.

Since 2000, customers have had to read an eye chart at the DMV orprovide medical certification from a doctor as to their vision.However, motorists have been able to self-certify that they meetother health standards for driving, such as hearing and physicalability.

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