Tonawanda News

Local News

September 30, 2011

DMV change has clerks seeing double

— — A Republican candidate for Erie County clerk is joining a chorus of state officials critical of changes no longer requiring vision tests among drivers renewing their licenses.

The Department of Motor Vehicles eliminated the requirement in a change that took effect Wednesday.

Republican Chris Jacobs, like others critical of the change, is calling the move a money grab on the part of the state. What’s more, he and others are concerned that no longer verifying drivers’ vision poses a risk to public safety.

“I am convinced that ... removing the eye exam requirement is designed to enable more residents to go Online to renew their license, which sends 100 percent of the registration revenue to New York state, bypassing Erie County entirely,” Jacobs said.

Drivers must renew their licenses every eight years, by law.

But the eye examination is the only reason many choose to visit county-operated offices, in which case a percentage of the fee for renewal stays local, he said.

Without the requirement, more motorists may opt to renew online or through the mail, he said, eliminating a potentially large amount of county revenue.

According to Jacobs and others, that may be the idea.

“The thought that someone could get their drivers’ license at 16 and then never again get their eyes checked is just ludicrous and irresponsible,” he said. “The removal of the eye exam requirement will only result in making the roads of Erie County more dangerous, something we cannot afford.”

Niagara County Clerk Wayne Jagow used the same word, “ludicrous,” to describe the change.

A statement released by the New York State Association of County Clerks also expresses shock at the change.

Jagow was quoted Thursday in the News’ sister paper, the Niagara Gazette, as having estimated the economic impact to Niagara County at more than $100,000 a year as a result of the change.

Jackie McGinnis, spokeswoman for the DMV, said the move was prompted by requests from state residents to enable more DMV business to be conducted online.

Many aren’t buying it.

“New York state is clearly putting money above public safety here,” Jacobs said, while promising to fight the change is elected.

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