The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is attempting to curb the unauthorized use of disability parking placards with a new public awareness campaign called #SaveTheSpace.
The focus of #SaveTheSpace is to remind people that misusing the placards is illegal, and that the price of punishment could be steep—offenders face a misdemeanor citation and fines ranging from $250 to $1000, a court appearance, and a note on their driver record.
According to DMV, the most common abusers are individuals who use disability placards issued to family members or friends to avoid parking fees and obtain convenient parking spaces, or drivers without a disability placard or license plate who use the blue zone for parking or loading and unloading of passengers.
While it may seem innocent enough, these drivers are creating a serious mobility challenge for drivers with disabilities by forcing them to find parking elsewhere, potentially in places that may present accessibility challenges or exacerbate a medical condition.
A disabled person parking placard or license plate is issued to individuals who meet specific medical criteria and submit an application to DMV with a doctor’s certification of a disability. As of 2016, almost 3 million people had parking placards or license plates that allow them to use blue zone parking spaces.
Findings from a 2017 audit conducted by the California Bureau of State Audits (BSA) revealed that over 70 percent of disability parking placard applicants were approved without enough information from medical providers, suggesting that between July 2013 through June 2016, 1.1 million applications were approved without sufficient information to demonstrate that the applicant was qualified. On nearly 20 percent of the applications, the signature from the medical provider did not match the signature on file with the appropriate licensing health board.
DMV has also not canceled permanent placards for thousands of individuals who are likely deceased. Although DMV performs a monthly match between state vital records and permanent placard holders, it does not perform the check against federal records. BSA auditors found 35,000 likely matches when comparing placard records to the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.
You can help raise awareness about #SaveTheSpace by printing a poster for your workplace from DMV’s website in English or Spanish, and posting a photo with the poster on social media with the #SaveTheSpace hashtag.
Not every disability is visible, and allegations of misuse may be unfounded, but if you suspect someone may be fraudulently using a disabled person parking placard, contact the DMV at firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the online reporting form available at www.dmv.ca.gov. If possible, provide the placard’s issuance number, make and model of the vehicle, the license plate number, and the location where the suspected abuse is occurring.