Greg Nickels announced today that he'll be proposing legislation to increase fines and make it easier for police to issue fines for the misuse of disabled parking placards. Misuse of a placard will now draw a $250 ticket, and police can issue the ticket to the vehicle rather than the driver, if they can verify that a violation has occurred. (E.g., if the person to whom the placard was issued is deceased, or reported the placard missing.)
Apparently, such violations are common. In its announcement, the Mayor's office notes that an SPD review found "significant problems" of people misusing placards. Furthermore, "[w]hen contacted about possible misuse, 85 percent of drivers were found to be inappropriately using placards."
What isn't entirely clear is what sample of drivers that represents. (Did they ask all drivers with disabled passes? Only drivers already suspected of misusing their disabled passes?) We're waiting to hear back from the Mayor's office and SPD on that, and on the amount of the previous fine. Update: It's 85% of those suspected of violations, which doesn't really tell a lot. As for the previous fine, SDOT's Rick Sheridan writes in an e-mail that, "Typically, placards abusers are cited for another violation (like staying beyond the time limit or not paying) and merely given a $35 parking ticket."
Full release after the jump:Mayor Seeks to Curb Fraudulent Use of Disabled Parking Placards
New law aims to ensure parking available for the disabled
SEATTLE - Illegal use of a blue or red disabled parking placard hangtag will result in a $250 parking ticket under new legislation Mayor Greg Nickels announced today. The proposal aims to end the unlawful use of placards that denies disabled individuals accessible parking and hurts patrons' access to local businesses and activities.
"Abuse of disabled parking placards has real consequences for the disabled, denying them accessible parking for their daily work, shopping and medical appointments," Nickels said. "This proposal will give our officers more tools to ensure disabled drivers, residents and visitors can more easily park on our city's streets."
The Seattle Police Department recently reviewed disabled parking hangtags used citywide and uncovered significant problems. Abuses found were placards that were expired, issued to people since deceased, or reported "lost" to the Department of Licensing but still in use. When contacted about possible misuse, 85 percent of drivers were found to be inappropriately using placards.
Under current law, parking enforcement officers can issue tickets only directly to a driver, even in cases where an officer can verify that the placard is invalid, (i.e., expired, reported lost or stolen or permit holder listed as deceased). Officers cannot simply leave a ticket on the vehicle. Under the new legislation the mayor has sent to the Council, officers will be able to cite the vehicle. By providing better enforcement tools, the legislation will ensure more parking spaces are available for disabled patrons with legitimate placards and other parking customers. The city expects this legislation will create incentives for voluntary compliance with current parking regulations.
Disabled parking privileges are issued by the Washington State Department of Licensing, provided drivers meet criteria as certified by a physician. A disabled license plate goes with the car registered to the disabled person; the placard is portable and may be used on multiple vehicles as long as the disabled person is in the vehicle while it's being used.