Will the LASIK trend increase the workload of U.S. drivers licensing professionals?

As LASIK and other vision correction procedures grow in popularity and drop in price, more and more Americans are throwing their glasses and contact lenses away – and drivers licensing professionals in some U.S. states might need to brace themselves for an increased workload.

It is estimated that roughly 2.4 million people had vision correction surgery performed from 1997-2001, and that 14% of Americans who wear glasses or contact lenses were “very interested” in such a procedure. (www.allaboutvision.com)

In New York and Wisconsin, drivers that have had their vision surgically corrected can retest – in New York at the DMV office, with an optometrist in Wisconsin – and change their driving status from “restricted” to “unrestricted.”

However, Alaska considers the dark side of LASIK – the failure rate. Here, a vision test upon license renewal is required for individuals who’ve had vision correction surgery but who still cannot see unaided by glasses or contact lenses. This will be significant if more states adopt such a requirement; a May 2003 study by the New Jersey Medical School estimated that up to one out of five LASIK patients may end up needing at least one eye retreated.

In either situation, a new vision evaluation is needed. Depending on state procedures, in-house DMV vision testers or the optometrists they partner with will be faced with the challenge of serving more patients with existing time, staff and resources.