Handicap placard abusers on notice

"The flagrant and willful misuse has increased substantially."

On Tuesday, October 20th, San Diego city councilmembers are expected to amend the municipal code to increase the fines for people without valid disabled parking placards and license plates.

The amendment is twofold. The city council will first change infractions of parking in disabled parking spots from a misdemeanor to a parking violation. Doing so will allow parking-enforcement officers to hand out tickets. Currently, only sworn peace officers are allowed to issue misdemeanor violations.

In addition to the new designation, the city is expected to increase the parking violations to $740 per offense, more in line with amounts other large California cities fine violators. In Sacramento, a citation for misusing disabled parking spots carries a $975 fine; in San Francisco, $935.

Amending the municipal code will save police officers from having to cite violators and will generate extra revenue for the city.

A staff report released on September 28 said police officers issue about 400 citations a year to those not displaying valid disabled parking placards.

"If you multiply the 400 citations at $740 per ticket, that would generate $296,000 in revenue for the city," said the report. "The flagrant and willful misuse of placards has increased substantially. It is estimated that 60 percent of the placards issued in California are currently being misused. There’s an exponential loss of revenue for the city when a parking meter is being occupied unlawfully and the enforcement of such actions are not enforced."

The city council will hear the item during their 10 a.m. session.

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From what I see in my daily travels, they could give out 400 citations a day. They should also make an app available for smartphones to take pictures of cars (and their license plates) that park in disabled parking spaces and send them to the DMV. After a few repeat offenses, the violators should get a warning and if it continues, a fine or a suspension of their vehicle registration. Far too many people park in these spaces with the selfish belief that they "will on be a minute" in the bank, convenience store or fast food joint.

There are also cheaters. A disabled person has the placard, but doesn't drive anymore. So a relative/friend/caregiver uses the car to buy groceries and parks in a disabled space. Wrong?--of course, if the disabled person is NOT in the car.

Agreed often but not always. I have often gone to pick up a disabled person. They are not in the car when I park, but need the disabled spot to disembark.

After a bad automobile accident and 8 days in the ICU, the placard helped make an incredibly difficult time a bit easier.

I can't tell you how many times my very able bodied husband pulled our vehicle into a handicapped parking space, texted me to start the long, weak, painful, tottering crutch walk out from an appointment or lunch with a friend, didn't show up part way there to help me, and I struggled to the car only to find somebody giving him a hard time. Yes, they stopped when they saw me. Most of them didn't bother to apologize, however, and it didn't make the struggles any easier.

Things are not always as they seem. The people who took it upon themselves to yell at my husband saw a young, abled bodied man park a car with a placard in a handicapped parking space, get out of the car, and start for the building. The reality was that the placard was being used properly and with incredible gratitude by both that able bodied man and severely disabled wife to whom the placard had been legally and appropriately issued.

Sadly, there are people out there who are going to judge.

While I agree with the comments above, it doesn't seem that the city council is concerned about handicapped access at all. As reported, the discussion was all about increasing the take from fines. If that is reflective of what happened, it would be expected from that city and its council.

Those handicap spaces need to be kept available for those who need them, and better enforcement would go a long way toward guaranteeing that they are. But doesn't it seem severe to get whacked close to a thousand dollars for parking in a reserved spot? I'd think that if there were more certainty that misuse of a handicap space or a handicap placard or plate would be detected it would reduce the abuse sharply. As it is now, most abusers think that the chance of getting cited is slim or non-existent, and so they take their chances.

My biggest issue isn't necessarily the abusers, who certainly need to be dealt with. Its that the placard holders get all day parking for free no matter where they are on the street. Along the block in downtown outside our office building I will usually see 5-6 cars, always the same ones, parked all day long. It chaps my hide a bit when they can park at no cost but I have to shell out $150 to park in the garage under the building.

I think there would certainly be a lot fewer placards getting used if people lost this little perk.

How easy is it for somebody with a disability (with or without a wheel chair) to get out of the garage and across the city blocks to your office building? Would you suggest the city set up some sort of valet service for handicapped spaces? Perhaps a shuttle from parking garages to the office buildings? I am not being harsh. I am asking the questions seriously. You raise a serious issue. What is the solution?

But, maybe I also am kind of sort of being harsh. I had what I view as the good fortune of needing the placard for 13 long months after a bad automobile accident. Getting from the curb to the building took planning and the same amount energy that my morning hour and a half run used to take me (and takes me now). Now with every step I take, on my run or in my day, I can't help but remember how extremely lucky I am to be able to park blocks away from where I need to go and only suffer the inconvenience of the time it takes to walk the remaining distance.

Remember, it can all change in an instant. You might need those spots one day. Would you trade 150 bucks a month to be that person now?

This is all fine and good, but it doesn't address the elephant in the room: The fraudulent issue of blue handicap permits. These are too easy for people to get. All they need to do is find the right doctor to sign off on the request for a placard.

The state of California needs to clamp down hard on this by doing the following:

  1. A doctor on the state payroll should vet all requests for a placard, and if necessary call the person requesting the placard in for an exam.
  2. A re-examination and re-application should be required every 5 years. No exceptions.
  3. If you are caught applying for a placard or the doctor is caught, the doctor and/or the patient need to be referred to the district attorney for prosecution.

A potential amendment to your idea would be having a couple different categories of placards, with different color schemes.

One, the main Blue with the White symbol, for those with obvious visible disability (Wheelchair, crutches, etc.)

Another, a White with a Blue symbol, for those with non-visible disability. Those with breathing issues, or heart problems, or other issues, unable to walk long distances without having difficulty. These would be required to have paperwork accompanying the placard to present to law enforcement officers upon request for verification. (This should keep most busybodies from assuming someone is cheating) Said paperwork should not list the actual medical reason, but should have the person's name and doctor's info for verification.

One old friend I no longer associate with got a permit. He has a paralysed arm. He walks just fine. When travelling with my elderly dad who has a real problem walking it can be impossible to find a spot near the door for him. They really need to give permits to those who really need them, and let the rest stop being "special".

If your elderly dad has a real problem, please get him a placard. Age brings about mobility disabilities (simple muscle weakness being one of them), and, from your comment, it sounds like your father has developed problems that may have risen to the level of a disability. Check out the DMV website and talk to his doctors. If your father's range of choices of where he can go is limited by a mobility disability, it will impact his (and your) emotional health.

He has one, and we take it, but finding a spot is often impossible resulting in my unloading him in front of the door, often in the street blocking the road, which carries it's own dangers and inconveniences others.

According to the ADA can not ask a person what their handicap is or require any proof of need for a handicapped placard. Many placards are used by other people than the person that the placard is issued to. I have driven my handicapped friend and when doing so he brings along his placard so that I can park close to the door. The newer placards are issued for a period of two years but it does not solve the abuse. Once you get a placard you can continue to have it renewed with no review. The whole system needs to be overhauled to insure that those that need a handicapped parking space can have one. There are two kinds of handicapped persons those that are permanently disabled and those who are temporally handicapped.

Here it is in a nutshell. If people can cheat with handicapped placards and get away with it, some will always do it. The same with paying income tax, taking a test in school, or running a business. Cheating seems to be a permanent part of the human psyche.

By coincidence, here's an ad on Craig's List today in the GIGS section: "I'm looking for a mathematical gifted person to take my statistics 145 class. It's all online and its an entry level STATS class, undergraduate. I can pay you $200 to take this class. I don't need an A+, just a passing grade."

Perhaps, as you believe, your friend was abusing the placard. However, it could be possible that he needed to park by the door and was joking about it so that you didn't realize his disability was an issue.

Nothing wrong with his walking ability, just how many grocery bags he could carry.

I respectfully disagree that there should be an app for people to report "placard abusers." Just because you cannot see the disability does not mean the healthy looking person getting out of the car is able to walk a long distance. A person struggling with cystic fibrosis, an auto-immune disease, a prosthetic device, balance issues, sight issues, even the difficult stages of treating cancer, are all just as disabled as a person whose disability is evident.

While a different colored placard for those with a non-visual disability would help keep others from judging, it really is nobody's business but the state (through proper issuance of placards and traffic enforcement) and the disabled person as to why he or she needs that placard.

The state should pay attention to the placards issued and ticket people parking in spaces without a placard. But, keep the regular person who does not have any idea what the situation the person with the placard is dealing with out of it. They don't have the background to accurately assess the situation, and really, it is none of their business.

Altho, if there was an app to report these abuses, it would make sense that the other end of the app would be able to kick back a "legally held" message.

I don't have any issue with folks who need the placards getting them. I do have a problem with folks who don't need them getting them easily, and with folks who misuse them. It is our business, though...the "state" is evidently not doing a good job of vetting these things, and it is taxpayer money that is funding this.

True, while it is nobody's business, people are going to judge. We see situations where people cheat the system many times. So people assume incorrectly when they see someone who appears to be cheating the system and want to speak up. Or they are disabled themselves and feel they should have priority over your minimally perceived disability.

I see people parking in those spaces, and I don't judge. Having worked for a parking company in the past, the only thing I speak up about is if they do not have any sort of pass, either hanging or license plate. If I see those, no problem.

Here's one for you about abuse of the handicap privilege. The one doing the abusing? Our very own Harbor Police, that useless bunch that the Port District has "protecting" the shoreline. I attended the sold out Garbage show on Shelter Island and by the time I arrived, there was no handicapped spots left. So I backed up into one of those boat parking places--there were 3 or 4 other regular cars already parked there--and put up my placard. I limped in to the show and when I returned, my car--with the handicapped placard clearly hanging--was ticketed with a parking infraction. None of the other regular (non boat) cars were ticketed--only mine. I took pictures & have witnesses.

However, since the Port and their merry men receive FEDERAL FUNDS from the gov't, they must follow all ADA access laws, including accommodation. Looks like I might have a nice little discrimination case here. This story is just to show that it is not always the DISABLED who are doing the monkey business. Sometimes it is the cops themselves, who are up to no good.

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