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The High Cost of Disabled Parking Abuse

State DMVs are cracking down on abuse of Disabled Parking Placards

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    Disabled people who can't find parking places because of placard abuse aren't the only ones who are fed up. So are lawmakers and the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Disabled people who can't find parking places because of placard abuse aren't the only ones who are fed up. So are lawmakers and the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Just this past July, a DMV sting in San Francisco nabbed three people suspected of parking placard fraud. A 50-year-old mother and her 29-year-old son were arrested and charged with four felonies: forgery, perjury, commercial burglary and filing false information with a state agency. The third suspect was arrested during a traffic stop and was charged with 24 felony counts.

    These arrests were part of the DMV's Operation Blue Zone investigation, which was started in February 2014 as a result of complaints from the agency's field offices. Staff had noticed a number of applications that were flagged for doctor's signatures that might have been forged, doctor and applicant handwriting that looked too similar, suspected false medical diagnoses and too many applicants from the same doctor.

    A new state law in Illinois says that only motorists who can't physically feed the meter can park for free.
    Photo credit: Illinois DMV

    But it isn't just about parking spaces. It's also about dollars and cents. Because a disabled placard allows the driver to park at meters for free all day, cities are losing revenue. And in the case of Chicago -- that number is in the millions.

    As of Jan. 1, 2014, a new state law took effect in Illinois. It says that only motorists who can't physically feed the meter can park for free. And to do so, they need a special yellow and gray Meter-Exempt Placard.

    The new law spells it out clearly -- anyone who uses a wheelchair, can't walk 20 feet or suffers loss of motor control in both hands is eligible for one of the limited number of Meter-Exempt Placards available. Otherwise -- it's time to pay up

    Oregon issues two types of placards -- Disabled Parking Placards and Wheelchair User Placards.
    Photo credit: Oregon DMV

    The number of people with disabled placards previously using meters for free has cost Chicago a bundle. The city leases its meters from a private company and pays based on a formula. But thanks to the loss of revenue from people using placards to park free over the last two years alone, Chicago had to ante up $54.9 million.

    Oregon, issues two types of placards -- Disabled Parking Placards and Wheelchair User Placards. A study in Portland revealed that vehicles with disabled placards were tying up 1,033 of the 8,753 spaces in the city's downtown area - nearly 12 percent. But people with wheelchair permits were using only 21 spaces. Officials estimate that cost the city about $2.4 million in lost revenue in 2012.

    So, they did something about it.

    Massachusetts placards display a picture of the person to whom it's legally registered, but some drivers are finding a way around that by covering the pictures.
    Photo credit: Massachusetts DMV

    In July 2014, the city started charging disabled drivers for parking. The only ones exempt are people with Wheelchair User Placards. The new policy seems to be having an effect because enforcement officers say they're seeing a lot more open spaces.

    At least one state is trying to crack down on people using placards that belong to friends or relatives. Massachusetts placards display a picture of the person to whom it’s legally registered. But a recent check by the ITeam discovered that drivers are finding a way around that, too, by covering up the pictures.

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