Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Sara Marie Liberati, No. SA 28 of 1980
Robert S. Englesberg, Deputy Attorney General, with him LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellant.
A. Patricia Diulus, Buchanan, Ingersoll, Rodewald, Kyle & Buerger, P.C., with her Jon Pushinsky, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr. and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.
[ 80 Pa. Commw. Page 520]
In this case, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety (Bureau), urges us to reverse an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County restoring the driver's license of Sara Marie Liberati, the appellee herein. The Bureau had recalled Mrs. Liberati's license, after concluding that she suffered from a visual condition which was incompatible with the safe operation of a motor vehicle.
Mrs. Liberati first received a driver's license about 1965, when she was sixteen years old. Six years later, in 1971, she developed an eye condition that diminished her central visual acuity. Acting on a doctor's advice, she ceased driving for several years; however, she continued to renew her driver's license. Liberati subsequently became aware of bioptic telescopic lenses, which, it seems, had been developed by a Dr. William Feinbloom, a New York optometrist. These lenses were said to have been designed to aid people suffering from poor visual acuity.
Mrs. Liberati contacted Dr. Feinbloom, and went to New York to be fitted for a pair of his bioptic telescopic
[ 80 Pa. Commw. Page 521]
lenses. Following a period of adjustment and training with the lenses, she resumed driving. However, in November 1979, she received from the Bureau a notice to have her optometrist or ophthalmologist submit a certification of her visual efficiency. Liberati's optometrist, Dr. Paul B. Freeman, certified that without a corrective device her visual acuity was 20/200 in the right eye, 20/300 in the left eye, and 20/300 for both eyes. The optometrist also certified that, with correction, Liberati's visual acuity was 20/40 in the right eye, 20/30 in the left eye, and 20/25 for both eyes. Dr. Freeman further stated that Mrs. Liberati's telescopic lenses improved her visual performance, and would enable her to safely operate a motor vehicle.
On December 10, 1979, the Bureau sent Mrs. Liberati a notice stating that her driver's license was being recalled. The Bureau advised Liberati that her visual condition, as indicated by the visual-examination report, did not meet the Bureau's standards of visual efficiency and was not compatible with the safe driving of a vehicle.
The Bureau's recall decision was made pursuant to a regulation formerly referred to as 67 Pa. Code § 157.3, which set forth the visual standards for driving. For example, subsection (b) of the regulation provided that: "A person with less visual acuity than 20/40 combined vision shall wear lenses correcting his/her vision to 20/40 or better while driving." Of particular significance to the instant case was 67 Pa. Code § 157.3(e), which stated that: " Correction through the use of telescopic lenses is not acceptable ...