NY Reconsiders New DMV Rule Letting Drivers Skip Eye Exam for Renewal

By Michael Gormley
|  Friday, Sep 30, 2011  |  Updated 4:49 PM EDT
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Two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration allowed most drivers to renew their licenses without an eye exam, officials are taking another look.

The move that took effect Wednesday had drawn immediate criticism from a New York City councilman who called it "foolish" and a Niagara County clerk who had called it "ludicrous."

The Cuomo administration had announced the new procedure for renewing most licenses online or by mail and touted it as a move toward greater efficiency. But safety advocates and county clerks saw it not just as a threat to road safety, but a way to grab substantially more renewal revenue from counties, which administered the eye tests.

"This is ludicrous," said Niagara County Clerk Wayne Jagow. He told the Niagara Gazette his county would lose up to $100,000 to the state under the policy.

Michael Murphy of the safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said "ending the vision tests would have put millions of people in harm's way."

The initial idea was to let motorist's affirm they meet the vision requirement.

A state official confirmed Friday that the administration now is reviewing whether an independent affirmation should be required. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no official statement has yet been made by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

There was no immediate comment Friday from the department.

DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala had credited Cuomo and his order to streamline agencies for the change. The policy was part of a new initiative to increase online transactions with the department under personal accounts through a "MyDMV" website.

Fiala had defended the change, saying vision testing wasn't required in New York from 1993 to 2000, and six other states don't require the tests for renewals.

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