West Virginia, California drivers could see changes to license renewals

| 10/18/2007

An interim legislative panel in West Virginia has its eyes on drivers in the state and is considering requiring them to take a vision test before getting their licenses renewed.

The committee voted in favor of drafting a bill that would ensure that drivers’ eyesight is adequate for them to safely be on the road.

The bill would mandate that the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles administer vision tests to people renewing their licenses every five years. Currently, vision screening is required only when someone first obtains a license, when a new resident applies for a West Virginia license, or if law enforcement suggests testing a driver’s vision, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.

The effort can be brought before lawmakers during the regular session, which begins in January. If approved, the DMV will notify drivers 90 before their their licenses expire. The division now gives drivers a 30-day notice.

People who fail to pass a vision screening would be required to get glasses or contacts or update their corrective lens prescriptions before getting their licenses renewed.

The panel also is studying whether to allow people who use bioptic lenses to drive. Bioptic lenses are similar to small telescopes attached to eyeglasses that help people with poor vision see at a distance.

West Virginia isn’t the only state to set its sights on vision tests for license renewals. In California, the state is looking into whether more extensive tests should be used to evaluate a driver’s memory, reflexes and vision and to identify people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

It still could be years before the tests carried out by the California Department of Motor Vehicles take effect. The agency expects to reach preliminary conclusions by 2010 from a pilot program now under way and report to state lawmakers the following year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

As a result, the earliest that drivers in California could face any of the new tests would be 2012. The Legislature would need to sign off on the program.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor