By Chief Steven J. Wojnar
Dudley Police Department
I was recently contacted by an area resident with a concern regarding handicap parking violations. These spaces in public places and local businesses are quite often used or blocked by people who do not meet the appropriate requirements to do so under the law. The person was concerned with other drivers blocking access points and other cordoned off areas around the actual handicap space. This activity can cause issues for those people who are legitimately using these spaces. I was asked to address this topic and I wanted to take the opportunity to remind people about the laws regarding parking in handicap spaces.
Handicap parking spaces are laid out according to law for use by those individuals who meet certain disability criteria. These spaces are generally limited in number so it is important to keep them available for use by authorized people only. Some spaces are marked larger for use by vans, wheelchairs, or mechanical lifts. These spaces can be wider and have lines adjacent them marking areas which need to remain clear in order for lifts or wheelchairs to be used while a person is entering or exiting their vehicle. If vehicles are parked and obstruct any of this additional space, it can cause hardships for those people parking legitimately. It can also be considered a violation since an unauthorized vehicle is parked within the allotted handicap space.
In order to park in any of these locations, there must be a valid handicap license plate or placard on or in the vehicle. Placards can be used in any vehicle in which the person with the disability is riding. Penalties for illegal use of these spaces can vary in severity depending on the type of violation. A person parking in these spaces without a permit is subject to a parking fine which can range between $100 and $300. The vehicle is also subject to removal. The penalty for the actual misuse of a handicap plate or placard is more stringent. A person is subject to a civil motor vehicle fine of at least $500. In addition, their driver’s license can be suspended for thirty days for a first offense penalty. The person who has the plate or placard issued to them can be subjected to the immediate revocation of their permit.
Handicap parking violations are taken very seriously. A person who is looking to save a few moments and benefit from the ease of parking closer to their destination takes a risk of stiff fines and penalties. Pay added attention when parking around these locations. Be sure you are not hampering the access to these spaces for lifts or wheelchairs. Your cooperation is important to keep these spaces available for use by those people who truly need them in order to enjoy many of the same opportunities most of us take for granted.
I wish to thank the residents of Joshua Place for their continued hospitality during my recent visit on Thursday, December 20th. These are always enjoyable and informative times for me, and I thank everyone who joined me last week.