ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico has become the first state to offer motorists an online vision test. And eventually drivers may be able to renew their licenses on the Web, too.

"Is this cool?" asked Gordon Eden, director of the state Motor Vehicle Division.

For now, the online eye exam is available only at motor vehicle offices in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and two other cities.

But as early as 2002, anyone with a computer video-conference camera — which identifies the driver to an MVD employee to discourage cheating — could take the eye test and renew their drivers' licenses at home.

Motorists renewing their licenses only have to take the eye exam, verify their addresses and have an MVD employee review their photograph.

New drivers, who have to take a written exam and road test, will still have to go to an MVD office to get their licenses.

Charles Shapiro, president of the VisionRx software company, based in Elmsford, N.Y., that developed the online eye exams, said the Web-based testing will eventually allow motor vehicle departments to put testing terminals at libraries, malls and other convenient places.

"People don't have to go and stand in long lines" at the motor vehicle division, Shapiro said. Eleven other states are planning to get online eye exams by the end of 2002, he said.

The online eye exam tests for long-distance vision, night vision, peripheral vision and color blindness. It provides a more comprehensive vision test than that required by New Mexico law to be able to drive.

Eden said the more comprehensive eye exam should improve highway safety by testing elderly drivers more thoroughly.

"The aging driver is becoming a greater risk than male teens," he said.

The test for long-distance vision has eye-exam takers click on large arrows with the mouse to show which way the open end of the "E" is facing.

The cost of putting the computerized system in all field offices has been estimated at $600,000. The money would come from a $2 increase in vehicle registration fees.