More than 3,000 drivers in Washington, D.C., suburbs have been ticketed for misusing handicapped parking placards since 2012, including some trying to score better parking spots at popular malls and shopping centers.
A review of police parking enforcement records by the News4 I-Team reveals officers in three suburban counties are frequently issuing parking citations for illegal handicapped parking. In those three counties -- Prince William County, Virginia; Howard County, Maryland; and Montgomery County, Maryland – parking is limited at busy shopping centers during the holiday season. I-Team cameras captured images of some of the violations in recent weeks.
Maryland and Virginia law prohibit the use of handicapped parking placards by anyone other than the people to whom those placards are issued. A family member or friend is not allowed to use or display a placard unless the rightful owner of the placard is also in the vehicle. But those laws are so frequently broken, police and state motor vehicle administrators regularly conduct unannounced inspections of parking lots to check the legitimacy of drivers who display handicapped placards.
Howard and Montgomery county traffic records show police have issued an average of 40 handicapped parking violation citations each month in recent years. The violations peaked during the holiday season in Montgomery County. In several cases witnessed by the I-Team, police ticketed drivers who admitted using a placard belonging to a relative, even though the relative was not in the car.
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration investigator John Harkins helps conduct inspections of drivers who use handicapped parking spots in D.C.-area lots.
“We confiscate 10 to 15 placards for every detail we do,” Harkins said. “Sometimes the placard belongs to a deceased family member. Some of the placards are stolen.”
Some drivers recently cited by police for illegal handicapped placard usage in Howard County were captured doing so by I-Team cameras. One driver, who asked we not use his name, said the placard in his car belonged to his wife. He said he knew using the placard was a mistake.
Drivers who misuse handicapped placards in Maryland and Virginia can be fined between $350 and $500 for the infraction.
The I-Team’s review of state motor vehicle records shows an increasing number of drivers are requesting handicapped placards, which creates a more fierce competition for limited handicapped parking spots at local shopping centers. The I-Team has learned more than 500,000 drivers have been issued current handicapped placards by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, an increase of about 11,000 from last year.
Requests for Handicapped Placards
Suzanne Applebaum, whose mother requires a wheelchair and a handicapped parking space, said competition for handicapped parking is growing. She said she suspects drivers misusing placards is contributing to the competition.
“Those drivers -- they are selfish, I guess,“ said Applebaum.