Skirting The Law: Disabled Parking Abuse On The Rise

May 28, 2011

In cash-strapped California, scofflaws parking illegally by using disabled parking placards when they’re perfectly able-bodied are in for a rude awakening.

Sting operations are cracking down on the abuse in various high-traffic areas of cities, including Beverly Hills, Westwood (UCLA campus), in Sacramento, and other locations.

And the fines could be quite startling – much more than the perpetrators save in parking meter fees. Per the California Vehicle Code, abuse of a disabled person (DP) placard is punishable by a minimum fine of $250 up to $3,500 or six months in jail, or both.

How widespread is the problem? In California, according to one report, one in 10 drivers has a disabled parking placard. The blue or red badges allow disabled motorists to park free or in specially reserved spaces. But the Los Angeles Times cites a statement by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that “at any given moment, on any given street, more than a third of the vehicles displaying the tags – and parking without paying – are doing so illegally.”

But it’s not just California where disabled parking abuse is a problem. In Houston, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle, at any given time in the downtown area, about 450 metered spaces are filled by cars with disabled placards. The drivers of the cars using those placards aren’t all disabled and the practice continues. That could cost Houston $1.4 million in annual parking meter revenues, based on a median meter rate of $.88 (rates range from $25 to $1.50 in high-traffic areas).

The abuse is so bad in some areas that people are taking to reporting violators to the California DMV. The City of Sacramento has a form on its website where the public can report abuse to the city’s task force on placard abuse.

Righteous indignation seems totally appropriate. But, as the Los Angeles Times story points out, the issue also involves the “angst” of motorists searching in vain for parking spots because scofflaws already have them, lost civic revenues, and the aforementioned righteous indignation.

The result of disabled parking abuse is millions of lost dollars in revenues and an increase in traffic congestion.

To see what is and is not permitted under California law regarding disabled placards, check out the California DMV link below.

[Houston Chronicle, UPI Los Angeles Times, California DMV, City of Sacramento]


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