Has anyone else ever watched someone blatantly steal a handicap parking space? I’m talking about the person who displays a handicap placard, yet hops out of a vehicle and jogs into the store. I watched a guy do this a few days ago, and it came right on the heels of a NPR story about the very subject.
Misuse Of Handicap Parking Spaces On The Rise
The story as reported starts with a Maryland woman whose car was towed by the Secret Service, while she was parked in one of several handicap parking spaces. She was displaying her husband’s placard, yet he wasn’t in the car and she herself doesn’t qualify for a placard. Needless to say, she didn’t get much sympathy from the general public when she aired a complaint about the towing. Subsequent investigations have indicated that the number of handicap placards issued has risen dramatically across the country over the last few years. Not only that, but a study in Massachusetts indicated up to one-third of people observed using placards showed no signs of disability.
What’s the excuse?
Another story about a samaritan that confronted a blatant abuser of a handicap placard was met with a shamefaced excuse that “…he was only going to be a second…” Another story by Channel 5 KPHO in Phoenix interviewed offenders who parked in handicap spaces without even displaying a placard. When confronted, they offered up excuses ranging from “…a bum knee…” to waiting for their spouse.
So, while health experts are working to incentivize Americans to make moderate physical activity a daily activity, we have developed a sub-culture of shamelessly taking handicap parking spaces. Why? Mainly because we don’t want to walk as far from our cars to the store. On the other hand, we have programs like the 10,000 step challenge that have shown success at reducing weight and improving health, under the premise that every little bit of physical activity helps. Yet, here are otherwise healthy Americans depriving handicap parking spaces from people who truly need those spots. And, with the Phoenix Police Department issuing 4,000 tickets each year, its not just a handful of offenders, either.
The increasing rates of obesity, and declines in practical fitness are at least partially attributed to the shift of the U.S. workforce away from less physically demanding jobs. And, just like many Americans these days, I too have a desk job. Despite knowing that you can’t exercise enough to lose weight, I’ve made the decision to fit exercise into my daily routine in as many ways as possible. One of those is parking further from storefronts and walking. In fact, its one of the suggestions for hitting a goal of 10,000 steps per day. Is it perfect? No. But we take these things in baby steps, so to speak.
I know several people that have handicap placards, and with legitimate reason. I also personally know people that would likely qualify, but haven’t gotten them. So, kudos the the Phoenix PD for enforcing the law on handicap parking. The Maryland story indicated police officers were hesitant about issuing tickets because of the awkwardness of enforcement. After all, how does one “prove” they’re entitled to use of a placard? It’s a valid point, and the fact that there’s no requirement to return unused placards worsens the problem. Generally speaking, private citizens don’t want to get involved for exactly the same reason. An iPhone app, called HF.org is available, which allows private citizens to get involved in a non-confrontational way. I think it has yet to be determined whether this sort of approach helps, but its worth the effort.
So, developing better enforcement methods might help. And its likely that adding a requirement to return unused placards may reduce abuse as well. But the fact of the matter is that none of these steps should really be required. Folks should man up and be decent. It’s better for their health and its just the right thing to do.