Holiday shopping season is about to kick off, bringing with it all the dubious joys of trying to find a parking space. Street parking, hard to find anytime, is now at a premium. Shopping mall lots aren’t much better. Yet, no matter how crowded the streets and lots are, there always seem to be plenty of handicapped-only spots. Somebody in a hurry to get the last Let’s Rock Elmo left in town might be tempted to grab one of them. Please don’t.
Being a good person, you probably think that if a sense of decency doesn’t dissuade the illegal use of handicapping parking spaces, the threat of $50 to $500 fines does. Apparently not. Able-bodied people aren’t just snagging the handicapped spots, some are resorting to fraud! (For the record, it is generally illegal to display a handicap placard or use a designated parking space unless you are the person to whom it was issued, or are in the act of transporting that person.)
Across the nation, law enforcement is reporting an increase in illegal parking and the misuse of handicap placards and license plates to take advantage of free meter parking and spaces reserved for the disabled. According to a recent article in the Sun-Times, the city of Chicago issued 12 tickets a year on average between 2006 and 2010 for displaying fake, altered, stolen, lost or expired handicap-parking placards. This year violations had already reached 155 in September!
Chicago is responding to the problem with stiffer penalties. People caught using the placards or plates illegally face a $500 fine and a 30-day driver’s license suspension (and the police will confiscate the placard). Doctors who falsely help someone get handicap parking status face fines up to $1,000. And anyone altering, making fakes or selling fake or genuine placards is committing a Class A misdemeanor which can mean jail time, $2,500 fines and a one-year license suspension.
Other cities are enacting similar stiff penalties. California enacted a law allowing cities to charge anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for violating disabled parking laws. South Carolina requires photos on placards. North Carolina is putting mega-font expiration dates on all new placards issued.
A non-moving violation, even if it’s churlish behavior like using a parking spot reserved for the disabled, shouldn’t have any impact on your car insurance. But as this is traditionally the season of goodwill, practice some for those less fortune than you and park your ride legally. Happy holidays!