WRAL Investigates

Raleigh seeks state time limit on handicapped parking

Posted January 23, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— City officials have vowed for years to tackle the problem of vehicles with handicapped placards taking metered and time-limited parking spaces at no charge all day long.

The vehicles limit the amount of turnover in parking spaces, especially downtown, that merchants crave. Most people contend that people with disabilities aren't the ones flouting the system, but relatives and people who obtained a handicapped placard while recovering from surgery or other temporary situation.

A handciapped parking placard Raleigh wants time limit on handicapped parking

A WRAL News crew spotted the same Jeep with a handicapped tag parked for an extended period on a downtown street in 2006, last year and again this month.

Last year, one woman admitted to using her father's placard, and another woman who had recovered enough from a car accident to walk in high heels said she planned to use her handicapped tag as needed until it expired.

"It's such a controversial issue, (city officials) don't want to face it," said Floye Dombalis, owner of Mecca Restaurant on East Martin Street downtown. "Sooner or later, you have to face up. You have to get something done."

City task forces in 2006 and 2008 talked about cracking down on the misuse of handicapped placards, and Police Chief Harry Dolan last summer promised a citizen patrol would begin spotting abuse by last October. So far, nothing has happened.

On Thursday, city officials said they would lobby state lawmakers for a change in the law outlining the use of handicapped tags.

"We're slow to change, in part, because it's sensitive – there's no question about that – but also because it involves state law, and it's always a challenge to make a change there," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Meeker and City Attorney Thomas McCormick said state law needs to change take away free, all-day parking for placard holders.

Yet, Charlotte already makes everyone pay for parking, regardless of whether they have a handicapped tag, and parking administrators there said they don't have the low turnover of spaces seen in Raleigh.

Disability advocate Mark Ezzell, who served on the most recent parking task force, which produced a master plan for downtown parking without addressing the handicapped parking issue, said balancing fairness, enforcement and accessibility is tough.

"I think we recognize there's only so much the city can do," Ezzell said, adding, "the city hasn't been as quick as we'd like."

Dombalis said general parking enforcement downtown has improved lately, but the suspect use of handicapped tags remains as prevalent as ever.

"If everybody could spend one week sitting (downtown) and seeing everything I do, they'd change their mind about a lot of things," she said.

Meeker said he's frustrated to see designated handicapped spaces in downtown parking garages sit empty.

"People are able to park on the street free, and that's the wrong incentive," he said.


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  • Momwith2boys Jan 23, 2009

    As a daughter of someone in a wheelchair with limited mobility (uses a wheelchair accessible van), I have witnessed more people abusing the handicap spots and placards than actual physically handicapped people. I have seen pizza delivery drivers slap up a placard and run in and deliver pizzas, young athletic folks who were too lazy to find a spot farther away. Several times there are no handicap spots available (particulary WALMART) and either we don't go shopping or try to go first thing in the morning. I find it incredible that for many handicapped individuals, it is not a matter of convenience but a matter of necessity and still people will abuse it right in front of us. The placards should be only good for a short period of time and then maybe have renewal stickers sent every so often (we do it for car registrations!). It goes far beyond just downtown parking spots!

  • A_Patriot Jan 23, 2009

    While I feel for those who need access, and I pray neither I nor my family need it, I think the "free ride" needs to stop. The logic/argument/lobby for every other city that enforces parking limits isn't suddenly abandoned at the Raleigh City Limits just because a minority of folks need it.

  • QT3.14 Jan 23, 2009

    Seems they are just glossing over the fact that there are people with the placards who do not need them. Stupid and selfish are not handicaps.

  • bob1974 Jan 23, 2009

    As a handicapped driver, I actually agree with the comment left by 'thewayitis'. If you can afford to drive the car then you can afford to feed the meter. I don't go downtown or anywhere where I would have to pay for parking and I'm actually shocked to learn that parking is free if you have a placard.

    Also, every time I renew my placards after they expire, I have the option of paying an additional small fee and getting a 2nd placard. I always give my sister the other one because I know she won't use it if I'm not with her. And she knows not to use it because she knows I would KILL her if she did.

  • imacoppiceman Jan 23, 2009

    as a police officer, I frequently run into people who are either stuck on stupid or grossly misinformed. The most common excuse I hear is that the placard allows anyone driving the vehicle to park in a handicapped space, irregardless of where the person whom was actually given the card may be. Of course they receive a lovely parting gift.....

  • affirmativediversity Jan 23, 2009

    run forest run stated, "...Jeesh people....... I'm not your enemy that is taking your parks in Raleigh EVERY DAY because I'm lazy and good for nothing. These two occurances were exceptions to the rule. And I could park close and walk as little as possible or toss my cookies - I chose to walk as little as possible."


    You should have chosen to toss your cookies and your friend sounds like a drama queen who was inconvenienced not disabled!

  • really02 Jan 23, 2009

    The City is looking at new funds. People are saving and no money spent for the city.

  • Not a fan of roses Jan 23, 2009


    I'm upset at anyone who uses a handicap spot and they shouldn't. I'm feel for the people actual need the handicap spots (for legitimate reasons) are unable to find a vacant parking. I'm upset that doctors pass out temporary placards like they are candy.

    So if you feel I am picking on your unfairly...tough b/c you are part of the problem. And if your friend's doctor will hand out a temporary placard for a sprained ankle this doctor is part of the problem as well.

  • thewayitis Jan 23, 2009

    I'm all in favor of designated spots for handicapped drivers, but they should have to pay for them like everyone else. It makes no sense to let them have the spots for free, when other citizens have to pay for them.

  • joco cruiser Jan 23, 2009

    The true problem is that DMV gives these things out so freely. I personally think that temporary placards should be given on a month to month basis. I do completely agree with the handicap placard having the same ID as the vehicle plate to prevent handing out or trading with others.

    Perhaps the city should look at selling a special use permit for long term parking, for those that want to park all day.

    What has to be remembered is that there are some that really do need the ability to park closer.