To Drive or Not to Drive

After the fifth patient in two weeks that failed the DMV test at my office, I thought it’s very important that I write this blog. My first patient H.M. was an 88 year old man that came in with a DMV form. During my exam, I discovered that his best vision is about 20/70. I refused to fill out the form that the patient brought in. And then I cringed at my patient’s next comment. “But I was told I shouldn’t drive at my last exam (8yrs ago), and I’ve been driving for all these years.” I, then offered to fill out a “limited License” form. Patient did not want a limited license. So this blog explains the vision requirements for NY state and forms required in case of a vision impairments.
Initial and renewal applicants are required to take and pass a vision exam before being issued a license. This test can be done at a DMV site or at an optometrist’s office. Drivers who renew their license by mail, must submit a MV 619 form (http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/forms/mv619.pdf), which should be filled out by your optometrist (or an ophthalmologist, nurse or a physician’s assistant). This form will suffice if the applicant’s best-corrected vision (vision with/ without glasses or contacts) is 20/40 or better.
If the applicant’s vision is worse than 20/40 and better than 20/70, an MV 80L form (http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/forms/mv80l.pdf) has to be submitted. These applicants cannot have the test done at the DMV, instead it must be done at an optometrist’s office. Horizontal, binocular visual field must be no less than 140 degrees. This form must also indicate whether or not the person has a vision condition that is deteriorating; and must include recommendations for driving restrictions that the Commissioner should consider; and recommendations relating to a vision examination on a 6-month or 12-month basis, if any.
Telescopes are prescribed for patients if their best corrected vision is 20/100 or worse. These patients must have 20/40 thru the telescope and 20/100 or better through their regular eyeglasses and a horizontal binocular visual field of 140 degrees. If the applicant uses telescopic lenses, it must be specified in the form and the telescope has to have been in the applicant’s possession at least 60 days prior to the application. Telescopic lens wearers must pass a road test wearing the telescopic lenses. The minimum training requirements are listed in the DMV website for individual states.

While this can be a life-altering experience, and not to mention the feeling of “loss of one’s independence”, its very important that these applicants and their families are aware of the seriousness of situation. This is easier if family members are on board with the eye doctors, unlike my last patient that had 20/80 vision and was taking care of an elderly cousin that is terminally ill. I was told that he drives her to her ER visits. Quite scary!

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