Find an Eye MD near you!

by Billy Wolfe
Daily Mail staff

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--West Virginians have been required for the past two years to get eye exams when they renew their driver's licenses. But those tests have led to very few drivers being forced off the roads for poor eyesight. 

"We don't have hard figures, but we estimate it is less than 2 percent of drivers," said DMV spokesman Steve Dale. "We haven't seen any kind of dramatic change in the number of licensed drivers."


In fact, the total number of licensed drivers has increased since the policy was implemented in January 2009.

The DMV takes a statewide count of all active drivers’ licenses every July, Dale said. Last July, there were 1,305,437 licensed drivers in the state, up from 1,292,448 in July 2008. 

Anyone wishing to renew a license must take a vision test to prove they are a safe driver. But those who fail the test may get a follow-up exam from their eye care professional, Dale said.

"We have established a system where they can go back and get a certification from their doctor and get their prescription changed," he said. "Sometimes, it's just a matter of them going out to their cars and putting their glasses on and then taking the test again."

Walter Ramsey is an area optometrist. He said that few of his patients have had to come to him for a follow up visit related to failing a DMV eye exam.

"If they can't pass the test, they have to come and see their doctor, and a lot of them just bring the form to their doctor to begin with to avoid the test at the DMV," he said.

But it isn't very often that his patients come to him after failing a DMV exam.

"It's happened so few times," he said. "But sometimes we're able to recommend some kind of treatment program, and other times they just didn't pass."

Eye exam machines used at DMV offices around the state are calibrated to 20/40 vision.

"It's a very rough measure of a driver's vision," he said.

And the machines aren't designed to keep track of how many people fail the test. In fact, the DMV doesn't keep statistics on results of eye exams at all.

He cited a recent study showing that 7 percent of Floridians are being denied renewals because of failing vision screenings.

"We think that the program is a fantastic way to ensure that drivers can see the road," he said. He added that many drivers might not know that their vision is slowly deteriorating until they have a check up.

"It helps provide an incentive for people to go and see their eye care professional," he said.

He said West Virginia was among the last states to implement a mandatory eye exam policy.