Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation v. Ronald E. Knoche, No. 1366 of 1980.
Horace M. Ehrgood, for appellant.
Harold H. Cramer, Assistant Counsel, with him Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, and Jay C. Waldman, General Counsel, for appellee.
Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr. and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 431]
Ronald E. Knoche (Petitioner) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County affirming the action of the Director of the Bureau of Traffic Safety Operations (Director) recalling Petitioner's operating license until satisfactory evidence of competency to drive a motor vehicle is presented as authorized by Section 1519(c) of the Vehicle Code (Code), 75 Pa. C.S. § 1519(c). The gravamen of this appeal is an interpretation of Section 1519(a) of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1519(a) which reads as follows:
General Rule. -- The department, having cause to believe that a licensed driver or applicant may not be physically or mentally qualified to be licensed, may obtain the advice of a physician who shall cause an examination to be made or who shall designate any other qualified physician. The licensed driver or applicant may cause a written report to be forwarded to the department by a physician of the driver's or applicant's choice. Vision qualifications shall be determined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The department shall appoint one or more qualified persons who shall consider all medical reports and testimony and determine the competency of the driver or the applicant to drive.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 432]
Factually, in May of 1979, the Department of Transportation (DOT) received a letter from Petitioner's former wife expressing concern about the ability of the Petitioner to operate a motor vehicle due to his severe spinal arthritis which prevented him from turning his head. Believing this to be "cause" for implementing the provisions of Section 1519(a), DOT on September 6, 1979 requested Petitioner to undergo a physical examination conducted by a doctor of his choosing. Petitioner's doctor filed a written report with DOT several days later stating that Petitioner did have a limited range of motion due to his disability, ankylosing spondylitis, but that from a medical standpoint Petitioner was physically competent to drive a motor vehicle.*fn1
In March of 1980, DOT requested Petitioner to take a special examination within 30 days of the notice thereof to prove his competency to drive. The examining Trooper testified Petitioner failed this examination because he missed five out of ten unspecified questions of law and he pulled out into an intersection in front of a pickup truck due to his inability to turn his head properly to see surrounding traffic. Based on this examination, the Trooper was of the opinion that Petitioner was not competent to operate a motor vehicle safely. Petitioner was notified by the Director on April 23, 1980 that his operating privileges were recalled effective May 28,
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 4331980]
, "until satisfactory evidence is presented as to proof of competency as authorized by Section 1519(c) of the Vehicle Code".
On August 6, 1980 Petitioner was again notified that he was requested to appear for a special operator's examination and on that same date Petitioner again failed this examination because he exceeded the speed limit twice and because of his physical difficulty in turning his head. He did pass the law part of the test, however, but, ...