A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky eye physicians applaud bill requiring basic vision screening for driver’s license renewal

Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 439 into law, which requires a basic vision screening for a driver’s license renewal in Kentucky, beginning on July 1, 2024.

The Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (KAEPS) has worked with legislative leadership for more than five years to advance this legislation. The bill, which passed the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities, has been tailored to coincide with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s DMV rollout.
“Kentucky ophthalmologists were proud to support this bipartisan effort to promote public safety,” said Dr. William Richardson, M.D., president of KAEPS. “It’s very hard to take the keys from our loved ones when they become impaired. Now, each person on our roadways will enjoy a greater level of safety. We may even discover a few Kentuckians with undiagnosed eye conditions, so they can get the help they need!”

Kentucky joins 42 other states that already have a requirement for vision screenings during a driver’s license renewal, including Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.
Previously, Kentucky only required a visual screening for the initial driver’s license application but did not require it for renewals. Studies have found that visual acuity declines as individuals age and that 30 million Americans have undiagnosed eye conditions. Poor depth perception and peripheral vision loss affect ability to judge distance and speed. 

“The passage of HB 439 is a win for public safety and a win for eye health in Kentucky,” said Frank Burns, M.D., legislative chair of KAEPS. “As an ophthalmologist, I am thrilled that our legislature recognized the importance of vision screening at the time of drivers’ license renewal.”

In states that have implemented similar legislation, fatal automobile crashes and hospitalizations have significantly decreased, such as in Texas, where a study showed a 10.58 percent drop in crash related deaths after the implementation of vision testing. Of states that have the lowest crash rates, seven require regular vision screenings for all renewal applicants (Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington). 

This bill will support public safety improvements by preventing those with vision problems from having accidents and will enable more Kentuckians to address eye disease early.
This will be a simple and convenient process, as applicants may obtain a screening at the DMV offices or receive a screening by their ophthalmologist, optometrist or primary care provider during their annual visit. If the individual receives a screening at the DMV and does not meet the standards, they will be referred to a vision specialist, an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

In addition to the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, supporters of the bill include the Kentucky Optometric Association, the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Association of Nurse Practitioners & Nurse-Midwives and AAA. 

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