For the past decade, New York drivers have been required to take a vision test at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they go to renew their license.
That means, until now, motorists could travel on local roads knowing every New York driver around them had passed at least one state vision test in the past 8 years.
But, starting Wednesday, that policy is changing.
The Commissioner of the New York State D.M.V. Barbara Fiala says the move means drivers who already have a license issued by the state will now be allowed to ‘self certify.’
To ‘self certify’ a driver must fill-in a legally binding form online, (or print the form to mail to the D.M.V.) stating that they have “20/40 vision, or better.”
Fiala said, “You know, you renew every 8 years, and now you can do it from the convenience of your home.”
She added, “You will [still] have to come and get a vision test when you first get a driver’s license.”
But as of Wednesday, drivers no longer have to physically go to the D.M.V. to renew.
In fact, thanks to the rule change, those who already have a New York driver’s license may never have to get a state vision test again.
But many here in the Capital Region worry some drivers will stretch the truth to stay on the road.
While standing outside the D.M.V. in downtown Albany, Najma Anwar said, “That's not fair! How the heck we gonna know that they can see properly or not, right?”
When asked if she would be worried about her safety on the road down the line thanks to the policy change, Anwar said, “yeah! Definitely!”
Fiala says the change is an answer to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for state agencies to save cash by streamlining operations.
“It's about customer service,” the D.M.V. Commissioner said.
“And what that allows, it allows the clerk in the D.M.V. office to have the time to handle the more complicated transactions, and the other people won’t be waiting for people just doing simple license renewals,” Fiala said.
But some drivers at the D.M.V. Tuesday thought the change sounded downright dangerous.
Peg Fisher of Albany said, “That doesn't sound safe. I mean, people are always going to ‘check the box’ that will help them out. So that’s what they’re gonna do.”
Denise Watso of Niskayuna agrees.
She said, “You might get someone in there that just says ‘click, you know, I’m 20/20,’ and they really don’t have that vision. Maybe they’re not even actually seeing it [the characters] on the screen.”
But, Fiala says the new system won't affect safety out on the roads, but will rely more on drivers themselves.
“We think people are going to be responsible, not cause a danger to themselves to their family, or to others,” she said.
Fiala also points out that ‘self certification’ is not a new concept.
The same system was in place here in New York from 1993 to 2000, but was changed 11 years ago, and Fiala says 14 other states across the country already have the ‘self certification’ format in place.
But before you rest easy, cancel that eye appointment, fail to update your glasses prescription, and decide to lie about your vision on your next driver’s license renewal form, keep this in mind; it’s a felony to ‘file a false instrument.’
But Fiala doesn’t want drivers to worry about the new process either.
She says whether you have glasses or not, as long as you get regular eye exams, and can see well when you wear your prescription lenses, you shouldn't have any issues stating that you're 'ok to drive' on the renewal application.