The Detroit Free Press has an ongoing series about people who decide parking in handicapped spaces is alright, despite them not being handicapped. It certainly isn’t and doing so can result in stiff fines and possibly even jail, in some areas.
Parking in handicapped spaces a crime of convenience
Just about everyone has had to make a quick errand in a store or building of some kind and noticed a handicapped parking space, unoccupied, close to the entrance. If a person is going to park there for just a moment, what are the chances a handicapped person is going to show up?
Most have been tempted, but parking in handicapped parking spaces isn’t morally or ethically permissible. It also isn’t legally permissible and can result in a fine about the size of an auto loan payment.
The Detroit Free Press has been running a series on misuse of handicapped parking for some time. The state, according to the Detroit Free Press, has 628,003 handicapped placards in circulation, which makes busting handicapped placard fraud difficult. Handicapped placards and plates aren’t always cheap, either, and neither are the specially modified vehicles the handicapped have to purchase. It isn’t as if all car dealers in Everett, Wa., to Kennebunkport, Maine and all points in between carry them, either.
Number of incidents difficult to determine
Anecdotes aside, empirical studies have revealed the number of people who misuse handicapped parking spaces varies. They also must be taken with a modicum of salt; every handicapped space in a given area would have to be watched 24 hours a day to get comprehensive data. Most studies take representative samples, observing only certain spots for a certain period of time.
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According to a 1986 report by the Research and Training Center for Independent Living at the University of Kansas, one study looking at three sites, two in Lawrence, Kan., and one in Topeka, Kan., found an average 20 percent of occupants of handicapped parking spots were inappropriately using them.
A 2002 graduate thesis from the University of Wisconsin at Stout by graduate student Anna Tierney found that of 250 respondents to a questionnaire, 6.5 percent voluntarily reported parking in handicapped spaces illegally. Other studies cited in that paper, which observed misuse of handicapped parking spaces, found illegal parking ranged from over 50 percent of people who occupied a parking space to as high as 76 percent in some instances.
Three types of violations
There are three kinds of illegal parking in handicapped spaces, according to the Detroit Free Press. The first is simply parking in a handicapped spot without being authorized. The second is where a driver uses a handicapped placard, usually only used for a passenger, for private advantage. The third is handicapped parking fraud, where a person uses a falsified placard or a deceased person’s handicapped placard.
However, despite potential fines and stigma, it hasn’t stopped even the rich and famous. For instance, according to NBC Los Angeles, Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers was caught in May parking his BMW 6 series half in a handicapped parking space and half in a “no parking zone,” directly in front of a grocery store camera. Steve Jobs, according to the CultofMac.com blog, was notorious for parking daily in the handicapped parking spot at Apple. Even the odd police officer takes the liberty, as a Seattle police officer was busted for doing so in May, according to King5.
Cult of Mac: http://www.cultofmac.com/2613/steve-jobs-still-parking-in-handicapped-spaces-the-pictures/
RTCIL (PDF – requires Adobe Reader): http://www.rtcil.org/products/RTCIL%20publications/Advocacy/Group%20Takes%20Action%20on%20Parking%20Problem%20Forum%20article.pdf
UW Stout (PDF – requires Adobe Reader): http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/lib/thesis/2002/2002tierneya.pdf