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Calif. to target disabled parking abuse

October 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every day, thousands in California abuse and misuse handicap parking placards, plates and permits. It's created public outrage and state officials are cracking down, but will it be enough? Starting next year, the penalties for people who falsify and misuse disabled parking placards and plates are going to be much tougher.

But officials admit it won't be easy to enforce that law.

It's going to get a lot more expensive to abuse the privileges that come with disabled parking placards.

Starting January 1, the fine goes up to as much as $1,000 for repeat offenders, substantially higher than the first ticket, which is around $300.

Disabled residents like Jessical Lehman are glad the state is finally cracking down. She says disabled spots are often full.

"I'm sure people once in a while use their father's or their sister's parking placard and obviously that shouldn't be happening," said Lehman.

The higher fine illustrates how difficult it is to crack down on abuse.

Officials hope it is expensive enough to deter the pretenders and quash the demand at flea markets and doctors' offices.

Disabled placards usage has almost tripled in California over the last 15 years. California's Department of Motor Vehicles issued more than 2.5 million of them this year, roughly 10 percent of the state's drivers. In 1994, it sent out only 875,000 of them.

State officials warn that doesn't necessarily mean abuse is up.

"As a society, we're not as healthy as we were 15 years ago, 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. Look at the incredible instances of diabetes," said Steve Haskins, California Department of Vehicles.

The state doesn't collect data from local parking enforcers, so it's hard to tell how rampant the problem is throughout California.

Still, with only a couple of hundred enforcers for the entire state, DMV says it can't possibly keep up.

"There are 2 and a half million placards out there and it's just not possible for us to have the number of feet on the pavement that it takes to track down these people," Haskins

Ray Baroman, who has a prosthetic leg and back problems, thinks people should have to prove their inability to walk far to be able to get the placards.

"There's a lot people that have the placard I see are walking fine," said Baroman. "I don't know what their problem is, but should have it so that people can't walk or have a hard time walking."

Many cities hope that means more parking revenue for them: They lose out on money because people illegally using the placards take advantage of free parking meters.


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