Effort aims to catch shoppers abusing disability parking

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Illegally parking in handicapped spaces violates the law, and the spirit of the holiday season — and that includes the holiday shopping season, Secretary of State Jesse White said Tuesday, announcing stepped-up enforcement of parking violations beginning this Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

As temperatures fall and shoppers flood malls across the state, able-bodied Illinoisans may be tempted to use a disabled friend’s parking placard or simply pull into a handicapped space, White acknowledged at a press conference at the Thompson Center. But that temptation should be tempered by the knowledge that members of the Secretary of State’s police force will be patrolling shopping centers starting with the Black Friday holiday shopping kick-off.

Able-bodied shoppers who take a space that’s reserved for the handicapped offend “common decency,” White said.

“When you do things like that, you don’t care for your fellow man and woman,” White said. “If you don’t belong there, don’t park there.”

Handicapped parking spots, and the adjacent, striped areas are typically both nearer to entrances and provide extra space so that drivers or passengers in wheelchairs or walkers can get out of their car and into stores more easily, said Bill Bogdan, White’s disability liaison. It can be nearly impossible for a person in a wheelchair to even exit their vehicle from a smaller space, said Bogdan, who uses a wheelchair.

Bodgan often joins the White’s parking enforcement crews on patrol, and he’s heard the excuse from illegal parkers that they believed they’re entitled to use a parking space simply because they’re driving a car that has a relative’s parking placard or handicapped license plates. But the parking privileges apply only when the disabled person is along for the ride, Bogdan said. And, he added, when parking scofflaws find themselves talking to Bogdan, they tend to stop trying to use technicalities to justify taking a space from someone who actually needs it.

“When I come wheeling up in the chair, they tend to get the statement loud and clear, and those excuses go out the window,” Bogdan said.

Other than violating common decency or ignoring the holiday spirit, parking violators risk stiff fines and penalties:

  • Misusing a parking placard: $600 fine, 6-month license suspension
  • Parking placard violation, second offense: $750 fine
  • Parking placard violation, third offense: $1,000 fine, 1-year license revocation
  • Parking in a handicapped space: fines up to $350
  • Using deceased person’s placard: $2,5000 fine, 1-year license revocation
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