Handicap Drivers -- a scam?

Two years ago I posted on Straight Dope that I truly believe that handicap driving is a real problem in the US – it is abused.

Here is a synopsis:

  1. Many people who get handicap driver status are abusing the system – they could easily walk the extra space it takes from their car to whatever it is they are going to.

  2. Another portion are of advanced age or have some diffeciency that actually makes driving unsafe. How many times have you been behind someone like this, with handicap plates, either driving too slow or sporatically. As sad as it is, they should no longer be driving.

  3. There are so many LEGTIMATE handicap drivers. Someone paralyzed with legitimate equipment in their cars to drive safely, a diabetic, an elderly pesron with painful arthritis who can drive with ease but who has trouble walking. . .

My bottom line – it should be hard to get handicap plates. It should only go to those who can drive safely and efficently – and I also believe that those who park illegaly in handicaped spaces should be fined harshly.

Two years ago, I was critized harshly for this. In part I blame myself – I was not clear enough. And in retrospect it may have sounded bigoted.

But two years have passed and I really reflected on the comment I received on this board — and I feel the same as I do now.

Am I off base? Your thoughts. . .

It can still be difficult to get handicapped plates. You do need a doctor’s signature on the paperwork.

FWIW, I have plates, and in general I dont park in the space unless I am having a particularly painful day, I just tend to walk slow and take my time=)

You assume that “he can walk ok, so he’s not got a problem”…what about if he has a heart defect, where he’s only supposed to walk short distances? I’ve met people who’ve been in such a situation.

Now that is an excellent, excellent point.

I figure the people who get mad at handicapped parking spaces are the same people who circle the lot for five minutes to save two minutes of walking.

Speaking as someone who once had a temporary handicapped pacard (post-surgically, I spent most of a year and a couple other chunks of several months without the use of one leg), I would love nothing better than the proper enforcement of existing handicapped parking regulations.

I don’t think we should make the decals harder to get - my own orthopedic surgeon somehow thought I wasn’t eligible for one, in spite of my inability to walk, because he thought I couldn’t get one if I couldn’t drive (ever try driving a stick shift with one leg?). But in IL at least, the decal-holder can use it in someone else’s car, as long as he/she is a passenger. All you need is a letter from your doctor stating that you can’t walk more than 100 yards IIRC without the aid of a wheelchair, cane, walker, other orthopedic device, or another person. Send it in with a 1-page form, and you’re all set. Which is as it should be.

However, why shouldn’t we make it easier for enforcement officials to tie the decal to the person? I’ve known of far too many people who “borrow” Grandma’s decal and use it to commute downtown; I really doubt all the young, healthy-looking people I saw parking in the Loop with decals and then sprinting off to work on spike heels were suffering from invisible but insidious illnesses, such as congestive heart failure or MS.

f cops could check the ID of the person using the decal against a master list of decal holders, enforcement would be much easier. The darn decals have serial numbers on them; how difficult could it be?

First, I was always told that mild exercise, such as…um…I dunno…say, walking…was a good thing.

Second, if someone is in such a condition that walking 50 feet could cause him (or her) to blow a gasket, they probably shouldn’t be driving at all. What if he vapor locks on the freeway, or at a farmer’s market?

The system is routinely abused, though.

My wife used to work with a woman who inherited a car from a disabled relative. Instead of changing the plates, or simply parking in regular spaces, she proceeded to merrily park in handicapped spaces even though she was fully able bodied.

My wife had to instruct her never to do this at the office, which was in her power to do as her supervisor.

Second, if someone is in such a condition that walking 50 feet could cause him (or her) to blow a gasket, they probably shouldn’t be driving at all.

I’ve known asthmatics with handicap stickers. I guess since an asthma attack can hit at any time (especially with physical exertion) everyone who has it should just stay at home :rolleyes:

The fine for parking in a handicapped space where I live has gone up to $200. I agree it should be a harsh fine, but $200 is TOO harsh in my opinion. The city only fines $50 for parking in a fire lane, sheesh.

Fines aren’t set based upon some notion of which infractions are “worse” than others. They’re set at a certain level to discourage people from doing the bad thing. They’ll keep increasing the fine until people stop parking illegally in the handicapped spaces. When that happens, they will have discovered the correct fine amount!

My father had a bad heart. Walking around outside in the Mississippi heat was bad for his condition, as it made him winded and edematous, and his doctor didn’t want him to do it anymore than was necessary. Walking around inside an air-conditioned mall or air-conditioned school gym, however, was good for him, and his doctor was all in favor of it. A handicapped plate was the answer. It limited his time outdoors and exposure to the heat which was not good for him and made it easier to get the exercise that was beneficial.

Where and when did you get your medical degree, bizzwire? Inquiring minds would love to know.

I don’t think that the OP is unreasonable. I had to use the temporary tags myself for about two years. I was glad to be able to give them up!

I have a friend who can move only his eyes, mouth, and throat. He travels in a van that his brother drives. We have had to wait for non-handicapped people to move their cars out of handcapped spaces. If you are not handicapped and you abuse that parking space, you are a primo asshole.

But you can’t always tell by watching someone walk. And it isn’t always a matter of checking the tags against the temporary sign. You may be driving your handicapped sister to a restaurant in your car, for example.

There are no easy solutions that I can think of except pressure on local stores to have tow-a-way trucks on duty for those without any tags.

I have a question for those who are able bodied who are complaining about who is using the handicapped parking. Why are you complaining?

It’s not like you can park there. They aren’t taking your space.

So why is it your problem?

Now if you were some kind of cripple in a wheelchair and your space is taken and you see someone come dancing out of the parked car and doing somersaults, then I could see your complaint. But that guy might be picking up Grandma. You didn’t want her driving, right?


What do you want? To get rid of those spaces?

As for sidewalk diagnosis—well, what can you tell is wrong with a fully dressed person? A missing leg or arm? Sure. A wheelchair or a walker? No question. And then there’s those old people who walk at 2 miles a day. though I don’t think many of those are driving. I really can’t think of any others.

Most medical problems are not noticible. I’ve got a walking handicap. Blocked iliac artery in my left leg. It’s invisible, by the way. I don’t limp or anything. I’m also deaf. Also invisible. Caused by the same disease (polyarteritis nodosa). Happened when I was 23.
I’m in my fifties now.

But back then, for a short while I used the special parking. Young guy, obviously healthy to look at, probably a faker. I’m sure someone thought that.

At first I had trouble walking 50 feet. For 4 years I went swimming for 2 hours a day and at night I’d walk a 2 mile circuit. Walk 125 paces one night. Stop for pain to go away, then do 125 more. Next night 130 paces. Worked my way up to 2 miles nonstop. Still hurts, though.

Now I don’t use the handicapped spaces. My doc says he’ll sign for me anytime, but I don’t want it. I park at the furthest part of the parking lot and walk. It does me good. But for some, this kind of exercise doesn’t help–it hurts.

And some of them have put in just as much work as I have and it just doesn’t do them any good.
They’ve got enough problems without you butting in.

Let the doctors decide who is eligibe to park there. That’s their job.

Let the cops enforce it. They got a job, too.
If you think you’ve spotted a cheater, fine, call it in. But it’s not the spaces that are the problem.

I’ve got one. It’s for my younger kid with autism and ADHD. Perfectly legal and above aboard where I live. My paed filled out the form, I paid my fee, they assessed it and sent us one. It’s got the kid’s name on it and we only use it when he’s in the car. I don’t have one for my older kid although I could probably get one if I applied.

Yes, people look at us sideways but they’re not the people trying to wrangle two kids with autism in a carpark. It’s easier to use the disability bays because there’s more space between the cars and because we’re not forced to walk through the carpark while K chases bright shiny objects in one direction and M heads off in the other direction entirely.

I have no idea whether people think we are abusing the system. I don’t particularly care. I’m more interested in keeping my kids safe. I don’t see how a very few carpark spaces makes such a huge honking difference to the rest of the planet.

We actually have a two tier system here where you get free parking in metered spots if you qualify as severely disabled enough.

Oh and there’s one mall here where it’s well-known that respite workers and their clients hang out in the day. I very rarely use the disability parks there unless there’s a lot of them free.

Gorilla Man posited a specific case, countering one assumption with another. I saw him his assumption, and raised him one. That’s all. It was not a blanket condemnation of all people with handicapped plates as goldbricking malingerers.

I don’t really think there is any such thing as ‘too harsh’ here - unless it is somehow possible to park in such a space without realising you have done so, but even that would be a problem with the markings of the space, not the level of fine. Anyone daft enough to park in a space they are not allowed to use, knowing that there is a penalty for so doing, deserves the penalty, whatever it is.

Saw an interesting case of handicap parking use here at work. Co-worker#1 (who I know is unhandicapped) has been parking in the Hcap spaces (complete with bluetag). I thought this was odd, but kept my mouth shut. One day at lunch I saw the reason. Another coworker (#2) is blind, and uses vanpool to get to work. He (blind coworker#2) was carefully working his way to #1’s car with his cane and it hit me: He can’t run errands, Drs Office, etc. since the vans only run morning and evening!! Coworker#1 is helping out, and the handicapped space is so #2 can: a) find the car (always in same spot), and b) doesn’t have to negotiate traffic lanes in the parking lot. I guess there are lots of reasons for healthy folks in the hcap spaces, not all of them obvious.

In my case that isn’t the case. I usually park in the farthest space because looking for a space is idiotic. (Ever have an idiot in his car stalk you as you walk down a parking lot to your car in hopes to grab your spot?)

Second, in this age of the ADA (in the United States) handicap parking spaces do not necessarily equate to the “nearest” spot to the front door. I notice many times these handicapped spaces are now closest to a cut in the sidewalk so that wheelchairs can easily get on the sidewalk. Often times these spots are farther away than normal spots.

The examples given so far – “I am non-handicapped but I drive someone who is” – well that is a LEGITIMATE case and I have no problem with that.

I can see boths sides to the “invisible, but deadly ailment” argument – though I get kind of nervous knowing someone could drop dead at a moments notice, they are aware of this, but decide to get behind the wheel of a machine – that seems very dangerous to that person and the community around them.

And can pregnant women get handicap permits? If not, they should. They deserve that courtesy.

Ivylad has one. After three surgeries on his back, the installation of a morphine pump, and now a rhizotomy to kill the nerves that are slowly being strangled by scar tissue, he finds it difficult to walk without a cane.

He’s only 40. Do you think he’s happy he has to park in a handicapped space? A lot of times the spots are taken up by people who, as far as we can tell, don’t need them. I reserve judgement, however, because I know a lot of disabilities are unseen to the naked eye.

I am scrupulous about not abusing the tag. I had to scold my BIL who jokingly said, “Hey, we have the sticker! We can park in a handicapped space!” even though Ivylad was not in the car. My MIL, my SILs, and I all jumped on him with both feet and he quickly retreated, realizing it was a bad joke.

I await the day for some asshole to come up to us and confront Ivylad for not needing the sticker, because he is fairly young and only has a cane, not a wheelchair.

In Minnesota, it apparently requires the signature of a couple people to get a placard.

A friend of ours who was in a terrible car crash in March has one now - waiting for a temporary (6 month) one to come in. She walks with a cane at this time and can’t walk long distances. She can drive short whiles, but she has to be careful. She’s a safe, efficient driver and she knows where her limits are. Her legs were crushed in the accident (but no breaks - she’s made of titanium, we suspect - the doctors were convinced she was in pieces) and caused severe nerve compression damage from the knees down.

It took her a while before she was able to drive, and for the time being, uses handicapped parking so she doesn’t hurt herself more when she goes shopping.

She’s 23. She gets sideways glances when she parks there… occasionally she’ll get some weird comments… though the cutest yet was from an elderly gentleman parked next to us at Home Depot who asked “You’re too young to be stuck using a cane! What happened?” so she replied “car accident…” his response “Good luck, sister… hang in there!”

Ah, Minnesota, where people are actually nice… :wink: