WRAL Investigates

Handicapped drivers frustrated by downtown Raleigh parking

Posted June 10, 2008

— Spina bifida doesn't slow Gail Lashock from getting to where she wants to go. But finding a handicapped-accessible parking space downtown sometimes does.

A recent WRAL investigation found people with handicapped placards park on downtown streets for hours at a time. Under Raleigh's interpretation of state law, a vehicle bearing a handicapped placard or sticker can take any metered or time-limited parking space – at no charge – for as long as the driver needs it.

The problem has plagued Raleigh for years, and a task force appointed by Mayor Charles Meeker is looking at the issue as part of a comprehensive downtown parking plan. The panel expects to submit recommendations to the City Council in the next couple of months.

Downtown merchants have long complained that customers have no place to park because cars bearing handicapped placards often occupy all on-street spaces all day.

Now, handicapped drivers like Lashock are calling for stricter enforcement to reduce abuse of the placards. She said she's frustrated because she doubts people with true disabilities are causing the parking gridlock in downtown Raleigh.

"It's hard to find (a parking space), especially when you need one," Lashock said. "I believe there's more people out there using tags that shouldn't be than that need them."

City Councilman Philip Isley said he shares Lashock's suspicion.

"There are absolutely some legitimate needs out there in the community. But I've seen people out there in the city deck that walk straight into the City Council. I can perceive nothing wrong with them," Isley said.

State law defines handicapped as someone who cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest. It also covers physician-confirmed heart, neurological, and orthopedic conditions, among others.

According to the state Division of Motor Vehicles, there are close to 1 million active handicapped placards in North Carolina.

Using someone else's placard is illegal, but Lashock said there is little to no enforcement of the law.

"Zero tolerance on misusing (placards), I think that would help a great deal," she said.

Some cities across the country use volunteer citizen patrols to monitor handicapped parking. Others, including Charlotte, make those with placards pay at meters.

As the city task force considers ways to promote greater use of downtown parking spaces, she said she hopes people who really need accessible parking aren't penalized.

"If we have to pay, we have to pay. That's my attitude, just like anybody else. But I do need that spot," she said.

32 Comments

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  • 68_polara Jun 11, 12:04 p.m.

    These cards are too easy to get and especially to renew. Enforcement is also needed to verify that the person to whom the card is issued to is actually a passenger or driver. It's pathetic that this is even necessary though.

  • wbob Jun 11, 11:20 a.m.

    For those of you who think you can determine a person's need simply by watching them walk - why don't you go into the medical profession? To think - all the tests and visits to specialists - and all I needed to do was ask one of you watch me walk 200 feet!

    Believe me, admitting that I needed to apply for a placard was very difficult for me to swallow. You have no idea what that feels like - realizing that you can't do things that most people can.

    No - you can't tell from watching me walk, but my condition is nonetheless very real. Getting the "evil eye" from people as I park and walk into places doesn't make this any easier.

  • TechRescue Jun 11, 9:43 a.m.

    A friend of mine took a pipe in the back when he was a LEO. His back is fused and he he has little to no feeling in his feet. He looks no different than you or I, but as you might imagine, mobility is a daily challenge.

    There is rampant abuse of handicapped tags, and yes, we need to figure out how to get a handle on it. But advocating the demise of ADA or handicapped parking indicates a massive pre-occupation with yourself at the center of the universe. That's a handicap too, but I don't know if you can get a placard for it.

  • 68_polara Jun 11, 9:07 a.m.

    "State law defines handicapped as someone who cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest."

    This is a shame because this adds those who are just overweight to be eligible.

    At the building where I work I've never seen a handicapped person use a handicapped parking space. Only over weight people who seem to continue to get their place cards renewed ever seem to use them. These people need to park the furthest from the building to get some exercise not the closest. Not only is obesity causing people to die much younger than they should it's bankrupting our health care system as they eat them selves to death.

  • hurricanesfan66 Jun 10, 9:58 p.m.

    Dang Yankee--I am at DPI too and park beyond Blount now that they took my Lot 55 spot for condos. Anyway, I did notice, after the WRAL story, fewer handicapped cars at the meters right in front of the building. Still a few, but not as many. There is one lady that sits in her car for who knows how long to get a close spot.

  • huller36265 Jun 10, 9:50 p.m.

    Today, I saw a woman pull into a Handicap space in front of a Target, hang a Handicap tag on the mirrow, get out of the car and walk into the store. No limp. No cane. Nothing. I watched her as she walked back out and left.

    This is twice I've seen this happen in 3 days.

  • renkengrl Jun 10, 9:42 p.m.

    I think we should make handicap placards have pictures of the person using the cards on it. other states have photo ids of the people whom the card is for on the card.. and if the person and the photo do not match the police can confiscate the card. There are a lot of people out there that use a family members card.. ive seen it.

  • TheBullCity Jun 10, 9:36 p.m.

    I think the way you enforce this is to have officers camp out first thing in the morning when people arrive for work and around quitting time. This should catch a high percentage of offenders. The officer can simply verify that the person assigned the permit is present in the vehicle. The issue of obtaining the permits fraudulently can wait for another day.

  • DangYankee Jun 10, 9:34 p.m.

    I work at the Dept. of Public Instruction, and I see a LOT of folks using handicap placards that I KNOW aren't handicapped. I've said things to those that use them, and they just laugh it off with, "As long as I've got *this* (the placard), there's nothing they can so about it." They also throw quarters in all day to keep the spots closest to the building (corner of N. Wilmington and E. Lane Streets). These are probably the same folks who use the placards to park closest to shopping, while the ones that really need it have to circle around!

  • TheBullCity Jun 10, 9:33 p.m.

    I understand what people are saying about you can't look at someone and judge whether or not they are handicapped. However, you can look at someone walk and tell if they are handicapped enough that they need special parking arrangements. If they walk with a normal stride, at a decent pace, and without visible pain, why would they need special accommodations.

    My brother is mentally retarded and has a tumor in his hip that bothers him some when walking, my dad has arthritis, and my mom has fibromyalgia, however we have never had handicapped permits. Just because you have some encumbrance from walking, doesn't mean you need special accommodations.

    I don't think it is all that unreasonable to be able to watch a person walk and determine whether they are capable of walking 200 ft without resting.

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