WRAL Investigates

Raleigh volunteers to enforce handicapped parking rules

Posted August 4, 2008

— Police will step up enforcement of handicapped parking regulations downtown to ensure drivers aren't abusing the system, Police Chief Harry Dolan said.

A recent WRAL News 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.

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.

A task force appointed by Mayor Charles Meeker has been 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 month or two.

Dolan said he will launch the Handicapped Enforcement Action Team in October to patrol use of the placards. The team will consist of senior citizen volunteers, including some who are disabled.

"We all know that there's a great problem with abuse of the placards," Dolan 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.

A WRAL News crew spotted a woman in high heels leaving a parked car with a placard. She said she got it when she was in a car accident, and it remains valid until November 2009.

"If I need to be there for longer than two hours, I think I should be able to use my tag," said the woman, who declined to give her name.

An unidentified man tossed a placard on his dashboard after parking downtown and walked to the Wake County Courthouse. More than eight hours later, he returned to his truck but declined to comment on his use of the placard.

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

Dolan said he sees a volunteer patrol in Raleigh as a way to reduce the frustration over downtown parking availability and ensure fairness in the use of handicapped parking placards.

"Sometimes the senior volunteers will take photos. They can even take videos. Who's using (a placard)? Where are they authorized to use it?" he said. "They're able to put in the time to do it, and if it requires an officer to follow up to do enforcement, we can do that. But a lot of the leg work can be done by our volunteers, and that's a great shot in the arm."

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

56 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • alanrmnc Aug 5, 6:20 p.m.

    As someone who had to deal with a parent in a wheelchair, I look long and hard at people who have handicap placards and wonder about their disability. I find it a little hard to believe that someone driving a 4-wheel drive vehicle, that takes a stepladder to get in to, has a physical disability. More like a mental disability. The blame can also be placed on the doctor who signed the form. The entire system needs to be overhauled to prevent the misuse and abuse of the placard system. If someone truly has a physical handicap, then by all means, issue them a placard. Let's stop the abuse!

  • WRALFAN88 Aug 5, 4:26 p.m.

    Ive seen many comments saying some disabilities aren't visible, yes that is true. I have one and mine is visible because of crutches. Heres going to be the issue now, if people get reported there going to claim there's just isnt visible like crutches or wheelchairs. Only way to know for sure is if its in a shopping area, if a person parks in a handicapped spot and walking perfectly fine to the eye and then goes to shop and gets a wheelchair then you know but if you get out walking fine and can walk around to shop then yea we got a problem. It burns me up when i see that and then actually be going to the same place and the people that walk fine with the cards an yet they walk around shopping. That I have a problem with and call me racist if you want but truth be known most you see that way are black, not all but most.

  • SheriffTruman Aug 5, 1:06 p.m.

    How in the world do blatant racist comments get through when often seemingly bland stuff does not?

  • 2thdoctordds Aug 5, 12:25 p.m.

    If you are able to wear high heels in the first place and plan to walk around Wal-Mart in them, you can park in the back of the parking lot too. No tag required. What is a few extra yards going to hurt? Maybe it is too hot outside or raining?

  • DOG Aug 5, 12:21 p.m.

    A receipt is issued, with the card, with the name of the handicapped person on it. It is required to be kept with the card. I have been told that the card is not valid without the receipt. If that person is not the driver, or passenger, the parking law has been broken. Check them downtown between 5 and 6 PM and you will begin to see a difference very quickly.

  • taindra Aug 5, 11:49 a.m.

    Just because you can walk easily or wear high-heeled shoes doesn't mean that you don't quality for a handicapped placard. The way you walk or what you wear on your feet has no bearing on how your heart is beating or how your lungs are working. I dare someone to question my use of my placard. Whether you can walk easily or not isn't the only reason placards are issued. These senior volunteers, the police, and everyone else have no legal right to know my medical history. Medical history is protected under HIPPA laws.

  • Fx432 Aug 5, 11:30 a.m.

    (Black) folks pass these placards along like family heirlooms. Watch them fight over who gets grandma's handicap placard.

  • Tarheel born Aug 5, 10:48 a.m.

    WRAL, record the tag number of the "offender", go to the DMV office downtown, i.d. the owner of the car and then use their name on your news reports. That should get some reactions!

  • mpheels Aug 5, 10:22 a.m.

    Not all disabilities are visible. Without physically examining and reading the medical history you can't know 100% if a person is disabled.

    Hang tags are issued to an individual, based on ability to walk a reasonable distance from vehicle to building. No drivers license required. Are we going to make the parents of a 10 year old who needs a wheelchair park at the back of the lot until the kid turns 16 and can drive him/herself? What about people who cannot drive b/c of their disability?

    Temporary tags are good for 1-6 months. Permanent hang tags and license plates must be renewed every 5 years.

    The issue is not who "deserves" a parking tag, but who is actually using them once issued. I believe (though I may be wrong) that hang tags already have the name of the person for which they are issued written on them. Enforcement shouldn't be based on visual assessment of disability. We need law enforcement personnel checking IDs against hang tags, and fining those using them illegally.

  • 2thdoctordds Aug 5, 9:24 a.m.

    Lazy and fat do not fit into the handicapped category either.

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