Customers at the DMV in Bethpage in July.

Customers at the DMV in Bethpage in July. Credit: Barry Sloan

ALBANY — The state has warned nearly 150,000 drivers that their licenses could be suspended over a remnant of the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed motorists to defer — but not skip — the vision test requirement for renewing their licenses.

Drivers and eye doctors are scrambling to complete tests or fill out forms that certify an applicant’s vision is adequate to “keep our roadways safe,” according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV has sent repeated notices to affected drivers over the last two years and a more urgent notice in recent days.

“Alert,” the DMV website warns. “Your license is at risk of imminent suspension. Submit your vision test now to avoid suspension.”

The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the closing of many DMV offices; many eye doctors’ offices were also closed at the time. To reduce lines at DMV offices, the state allowed drivers to “self-certify their vision” when renewing online a license that expired between March 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021.

How to meet the vision test requirement

Drivers who received the recent notices to get eye exams have several options. They may:

  • Submit proof of a vision test already taken. That document can be submitted electronically or by mail by an approved eye doctor or other provider. A form is available on the web site (https://dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/vision-information).
  • Submit proof of a vision test by a provider on the DMV’s list of approved providers. The form can be sent electronically or mailed. The state provides a list of practitioners (www.dmv.ny.gov/vision-registry-locator) that shows physicians by ZIP code.
  • See a provider not on the list by having the provider complete a Vision Test Report, Form MV6-19, which is also on the DMV website.
  • Go to a DMV office to complete the test.
  • Visit the DMV website for a different process to renew a commercial driver’s license (https://dmv.ny.gov/commercial-drivers/how-renew-cdl).

DMV sent monthly emails to drivers, when the agency had their email addresses, and annual letters to New Yorkers who had to submit proof of their vision tests. When they self-certified, drivers had agreed to submit the test results within a year. The agency said the “vast majority” of those drivers complied with the requirement, although neither the total number of drivers impacted nor the number who complied was immediately available Friday.

The vision requirement must be met within one year of the license renewal date “or action may be taken against your license,” according to the DMV. In New York, driver’s licenses must be renewed every eight years.

Dawn Verdi, a receptionist at Deer Park Vision Care, said the office had received “a whole influx” of callers inquiring about vision tests on Wednesday and Thursday.

Verdi said 15 to 20 people had sought eye exams that could satisfy the DMV requirement in just a few days this week and many more called with questions.

The eye exam for DMV takes about five minutes, and the DMV had also alerted optometrists and ophthalmologists that they “may experience increased demand for vision test appointments the next several weeks.”

“We probably see a couple a day on average, and now we’re probably doubling or tripling that the last few days,” said Steve Schiff, an optometrist at Deer Park Vision Care, of patients requesting DMV eye exams.

To pass the DMV test without being required to wear glasses or contact lenses, drivers must have 20/40 vision in at least one eye or better without wearing corrective lenses.

“Ensuring the safety of New York’s roadways is central to the mission of DMV and as such, the DMV requires drivers to have a certain level of visual acuity to operate a motor vehicle,” Lisa Koumjian, deputy commissioner of the DMV, told Newsday on Friday. “DMV sent multiple notices to these drivers reminding them of their responsibility — this most recent letter is the final notice to comply before their license is suspended."

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