The Lack of Vision Testing in Driver’s License Renewals is a Public Safety Issue

We’ve all been there. We’ve witnessed questionable driving on the road, been a passenger in a car whose driver makes us anxious, or recognized that our own driving abilities have gone downhill. Regardless of which perspective best describes you, the truth is that without good vision, driving is difficult at best and downright dangerous at worst. It’s natural for the body’s functions to deteriorate with age, so it seems logical that the sense most used for safe vehicle operation be tested periodically. However, the state of Kentucky doesn’t require vision tests at license renewals.

An accident last fall brought this issue to the forefront in Western KY. Former McCracken County Judge-Executive Van Newberry was on his bicycle when he was fatally struck by a motorist who, according to the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office, showed “severe visual impairment.” Could this tragedy have been avoided if the 68-year-old motorist’s vision had been regularly monitored by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles? Under the current system, the hope is that individuals will decide for themselves when they are no longer fit to operate a vehicle and voluntarily surrender their driver’s license.

Sometimes, people do come to that realization. Other times, friends and family members intervene to help convince their loved one to stay off the road. However, it’s not often that someone willingly gives up driving privileges. It’s also not often that someone’s vision deteriorates suddenly. Rather, it is a gradual change, making it easier perhaps for people to deny that they’re not fit to safely operate a motor vehicle. Doctors and law enforcement officers can notify the state’s medical review board to request a driver’s eyes be evaluated, and reports of unsafe driving can end up as flags on a person’s record when they go to renew their license, but these are not very common occurrences.

The majority of states acknowledge potential vision impairment at the time of renewal. Kentucky is one of only eight states that does not require vision re-testing at any age when a person renews his or her license. Neighboring Tennessee is another. In fact, a vision exam is required in Kentucky only in the following three instances:

  • When a person applies for a learner’s permit
  • When a driver transfers from another state with an expired license
  • When a driver transfers from another country.

In Missouri, a vision exam is required at every renewal. In Illinois, a vision screening is required for all renewals except for those who have a clean driving record. Illinois also mandates that people age 75 and older take an actual driving test at each renewal. Drivers ages 81 to 86 must renew every two years, while people ages 87 and older must renew every year. Kentucky State Representative Gerald Watkins thinks legislation on this topic is “long overdue” in the Bluegrass State and hopes it will be on the docket as soon as next year.

The Johnson Law Firm helps obtain compensation for those who have been injured by a careless driver — and that includes a driver who was operating his vehicle with diminished vision or who otherwise was negligent. If you have been involved in a wreck on Kentucky roads, or if you have any questions about this topic, contact one of the car accident attorneys at the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm. We are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or filling out our online form.

Attorney Billy Johnson

William “Billy” Johnson grew up in the Dorton area of Pike County, Kentucky, and early on decided to stay in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Like many others in Eastern Kentucky, Billy’s dad worked as a coal miner, a hard job but one that taught his son how to meet challenges head on and persevere. Attorney Billy Johnson has years of experience helping injured clients with claims such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, work injuries, and more. [ Attorney Bio ]

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