Optometrists on eye exam law: 'A fatal mistake'

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Charleston, SC (WCSC) - Optometrists in the Charleston area call pending legislation to change driver eye-exam requirements a "fatal mistake."

State legislators are considering changing the length of time between driver eye exams from five years to 10.  According to state DMV representatives, the switch would prevent the state from spending an additional $773,000 in re-registration fees.

Optometrists, however, are against the decision.  Dr. Robert Lopanik, based in downtown Charleston, says while the move may save money, it risks lives.

"Who is going to take the responsibility for the that patient if they get involved in an accident? One law-suit could easily cost more than $773,000," he said.

Dr. Lopanik says he sees a handful of patients every few months who barely pass their eye exams, no matter the age.  Dr. Lopanik says this proves that no matter who the driver, bringing in eye health in to play once every five years, let alone 10, is legislative irresponsibility.

"The eyes are dynamic.  They are constantly changing," said Lopanik.  "Somebody has got to take responsibility for the changes, monitor the changes, and let the people know who is safe to drive and who is not."

The measure from legislators came after it was announced Monday by the state Department of Motor Vehicles that it has no way of enforcing a requirement that drivers prove every five years their vision is good enough for them to get behind the wheel.

South Carolina legislators delayed discussion of a bill Wednesday that would do away with a requirement for driver's license vision tests every five years.

Currently, drivers 65 and older renew licenses every five years and must prove their vision is good.

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