As a driver, as a citizen and as a person who has a good friend with a disability, I would like to discuss the issue of disabled placard abuse in California. In my opinion, the abuse of disabled placards is a despicable action that badly affects the infrastructure of our cities as well as limits the rights of those people who need to park in certain locations because of their physical conditions. As we all may know, people that are able to drive their own cars but have a disability are allowed to use a placard for gaining access to handicapped parking spaces near a building, whether it is a business or a shopping center.
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However, when you live in California and drive your own car, you may find that a vehicle occupies the handicapped parking spot with an illegal parking placard. The loop in the law that has allowed able people is the one that cannot be solved very easily. But, with a few tricks, it is possible.
In the neighborhoods that are frequently visited by the officials, the majority of parked cars that have disabled placards are usually parked illegally. I have recently read Andy Newman’s New York Times article on placard abuse because I needed some insight into the issue. The article stated that a quarter of the cars that bear official parking placards were using forged credentials. The officials that check the parking placards in the window usually assume that the driver is using it correctly, without bothering to check. Even now, with the available technological advances, the officials prefer to be blind to the issue. This blindness also makes borrowing placards from your friends or neighbors available, too. Very convenient, indeed.
I can play out a real-life scenario for you. Imagine that you are driving someone with a disability; they give you their parking placard so you can park where you want. This case is ambiguous: on the one hand, the person with a disability is present in the car, but on the other, the driver is clearly able to park in a regular parking spot. So, when a police officer decides to check the photo or the code on the parking placard, he won’t be completely sure if you are using the placard legally.
Another scenario is when you are driving around with someone’s parking placard without its owner. For instance, one day you are feeling very lazy and ask your friend whether you can borrow his placard. If your friend gave you the placard, then you drive around with it and park wherever you want without the police being the wiser. Thus, you are able to get away with this abuse without any legal consequences. Usually, the police never ask where the person with the disability is, all they care about is whether you have someone’s placard when you are parking in a handicapped space.
Moreover, selling parking placards is also a common practice. It can be called VIP parking that you pay for and then can park anywhere you wish. It was recently reported that for a price of $300 people could get a placard along with an envelope from a fraud that works in a DMV. However, as it turned out, the fraud did not work at the DMV but was simply stealing placards from parked vehicles. This means that the widespread availability of parking placards creates a fraudulent incentive for those who like easy money.
When searching for new reports on the topic of placard abuse, we can come across a number of researches that only confirm the fact disabled placard abuse is a widely spread issue, especially in California. Such research was done by UCLA and discussed in Shoup’s Access Magazine article. For one full day, the team of researchers conducted an observation of a street block with parking meters. Instantly they noticed that the majority of curb parking spaces were occupied by disabled placard cars. Moreover, such placards occupied all parking spots for five to six hours a day. Instead of charging four dollars per hour, one parking meter at the street block earned only thirty cents. At the end of the day, the team made calculations and got the following result: the placard abusers consumed more than eighty percent of the parking meter revenue.
Apart from stealing revenue from our cities, placard abuse also contributes to the astonishing rise of California traffic rates. Personally, I can never find a parking spot at constantly cruising around at the turtle-speed in case a spot clears. However, we all have noticed that in order to reduce the underpriced curb parking and placard abuse, the state of California had introduced various programs that have not been successful yet. Even with the rise of parking fees, the issue of disabled placard abuse still has no distinct solution. Unfortunately for us citizens, the state of California still allows drivers that possess disabled placards park at any vacant spot for any desired time. The incentive for abusing disabled placards will still rise even if cities will increase parking rates for the non-placard drivers.
With all the problems discussed, it is important to outline what we, as citizens, can do with disabled placard abuse. Because placard abuse steals revenue from our cities, the introduction of parking fees regardless of the placard availability is one of the solutions that can be offered to local governments. Despite this solution limiting the rights of disabled drivers, it will help eliminate the misuse of placards. The local governments that fail to introduce strict measures encourage the availability of parking placards. A must-pay policy will eliminate the corruption culture that has grown around the use of disabled placards as passes for free parking at any time. Because monitoring of parking placards is difficult, the chances of getting punished for the violation are low.
For now, we, the general public should understand that the introduction of a charge for all drivers irrespective of parking placards and spending the revenue on providing adequate transportation for the disabled community members is the most practical and beneficial solution. It will improve the life of every citizen – except those who now abuse the disabled placards.
To conclude, I would like to tie everything previously said. The widespread abuse of parking placards not only is unlawful, but it is also disrespectful of the people who do need a special parking spot due to their condition. It clogs the traffic and also causes inconveniences for regular drivers that pay the parking fees at parking meters. I don’t think that the simple increase in parking rates only for non-placard drivers will solve the issue. For truly eliminating any instances of disabled placard abuse, a fair introduction of fees for all drivers at all parking meters should be implemented. It will increase the cities’ revenue that can be spent at providing additional transportation facilities for the disabled members of the community thus showing care and respect.
Shoup, D. (2011). Ending the Abuse of Disabled Parking Placards. Access Magazine, 39. Web.
Shoup, D. (2012). Curbing the Parking Crunch by Cutting Disabled Placard Abuse. Los Angeles Times. Web.
Newman, A. (2011). Misuse of Official Parking Placards Is Widespread, Report Finds. The New York Times. Web.