New York reinstates eye tests for driver's license renewal

By Holly McKenna

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - After a public outcry over safety concerns, New York on Friday reinstated vision tests for 2.4 million drivers who renew licenses each year.

Just days after an end to the tests went into effect on Wednesday, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala said it would be delayed until a decision by a medical advisory board as to the best way to check drivers' vision.

State officials and road safety experts had objected to the cost-cutting measure, which would have allowed New Yorkers to "self-certify" their vision, saying it would endanger the safety of the state's 11 million drivers.

The measure applied only to renewals, with vision tests still mandatory for new drivers and commercial drivers.

"Those of us charged with delivering key government services to the public must always look for the most cost-effective ways to provide those services, but public safety will always be the first priority at DMV and it will not be compromised," Fiala said in a statement.

Fiala said she will convene an advisory group of health, safety and transportation experts to decide the matter.

State Senator Patty Ritchie, a frequent critic of the DMV, applauded the decision.

"New York has made tremendous gains in improving highway safety - and saving lives - by focusing on such problems as drunk and distracted driving, but those gains were put at risk by this plan to essentially let motorists play eye doctor and self-certify that their vision was good enough to be on the road," said Ritchie.

New York receives more than 2.4 million driver license renewal applications each year.

The current vision testing procedure was instituted in 2000 and requires that the customer read lines on an eye chart behind the DMV counter. That system will remain in effect pending the outcome of the advisory group's recommendations.

The DMV said 14 states, including four bordering New York, currently allow motorists to renew their driver license without a vision test.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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