S. Carolina doesn't alert drivers when eye exams due

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COLUMBIA -- Seven years after South Carolina changed the way it required drivers to prove their eyesight is adequate, the state has not established a system of notifying people when they need to take vision tests or track who has done so.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed Monday that it has no practical way of enforcing a requirement that drivers younger than 65 show every five years that their eyes are good enough to get behind the wheel.

State officials have no idea how many people have broken the law, making those drivers eligible for $50 fines though the law is not being enforced. Politicians say they are not pleased.

"The Legislature writes the laws; they're supposed to enforce the laws," said state Rep. Annette Young, a Summerville Republican who handles the agency budget. "Just to not comply with the law is not acceptable."

Lawmakers plan to discuss a measure Wednesday that would eliminate the five-year checks. The current law "puts a tremendous burden on the public to have to go and send in a vision test," said state Rep. Gary Simrill, a Rock Hill Republican who co-sponsored the bill.

He said the current system leaves drivers with "a halfway, 10-year license."

Tom Crosby, the spokesman for AAA of the Carolinas, said people should have eye tests every five years because some physical conditions and eye disease can cause rapid vision deterioration. But the greater concern is ensuring people 65 and older have frequent tests, he said.

Every South Carolina driver had to submit to eye tests every five years when they renewed their licenses before 2003. When the Legislature extended the license-renewal period from five to 10 years in 2003, lawmakers kept the five-year eye exam requirement and added a fine for people who didn't obey the vision-test requirement.


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