The state Department of Motor Vehicle’s decision to allow people renewing their driver’s licenses to “self-certify” their vision is good is being put on hold, according to a source with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The change was announced Monday and took effect Wednesday, drawing criticism from many county clerks, who run DMVs for the state in 51 counties, and medical professionals.
The DMV said the rationale for the change in the eye-test requirements is it is trying to move more services online for the convenience of customers, who already self-certify that they don’t have any medical problems that could impair their driving ability, such as hearing loss. Since 2000, motorists had to read an eye chart at the DMV as one of the requirements for getting a new license, or provide a medical certification from a doctor.
A number of county clerks have called on the DMV to reverse its policy, saying it puts public safety at risk.
The DMV did not require the eye test between 1993 and 2000. There are 14 other states that either do not require eye tests for renewals or they allow motorists to self-certify, according to a spokeswoman for the state agency said. They haven’t had a drop in traffic safety, she added.
Another issue county clerks have with allowing people to renew driver’s licenses online is that it will reduce their revenues. If someone renews at a county-run DMV office, the county gets a cut of 12.7 percent, which was put in place because it takes local resources and staff to do the work. With an online system, the state will get all the revenues.
Dr. Michele Lagana, a Rochester-area optometrist, said in a statement that she was concerned the in-0ffice test was being eliminated. “We believe that this change in practice will jeopardize the safety of the driving public, their passengers, pedestrians and licensed drivers themselves,” said Lagana, vice president of the New York State Optometric Association.