Tag Archives: disabled

Dear Abby and the disabled parking police

The in basket: Since the daily crossword puzzles in The Kitsap Sun and Dear Abby were put on the same page,  I always read Dear Abby, though it seems to be as much a huckster for books as an advice column these days.

One day recently, she fielded a letter from a woman who got yelled at by someone who thought she was using a handicapped parking space without being disabled.

Abby replied that confronting someone you suspect of gaming the disabled parking rules can lead to the kind of false accusation of which the letter writer said she had been a victim.

Abby then recommended a person, “write down the license number of the car and inform the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are right, the authorities will be interested in that information.”

That’s a bit short of saying the authorities will do anything about it, which is a good thing. I asked the state Department of Licensing, our equivalent of the DMV, to see what they would do with such a notification.

The out basket: “I’m afraid that isn’t the best advice,” Brad Benfield of the DOL replied. “My agency issues the placards and plates used for access to parking spaces for individuals with disabilities, but we don’t have any way to investigate alleged misuse or any enforcement power. We would not have a way to follow up on disabled parking space misuse.

“Those duties rest with the law enforcement agencies across our state. They have the power to issue tickets to individuals found to have parked illegally in these types of reserved parking spaces. If an individual would like to make a report about this type of activity, reporting it to their local law enforcement agency would be most appropriate.”

Our local police agencies all have different standards for enforcing disabled parking laws. Some will only cite for being in a disabled space without the requisite plate or placard.

When I asked the federal Department of Justice a while back if the disabled person who got the plate or placard can stay in the car in a handicapped space while someone else goes into the store or whatever, I was told that’s up to the local authorities.

So I asked Kitsap Sheriff’s Deputy Schon Montague, who directs the Citizens on Patrol (COP) volunteers who check disabled spaces for violators what he would do with such a complaint.

“People should call 911 when they suspect a law violation, including parking violations,” he said. “In Kitsap County there is no non-emergency phone number. The only way to get a hold of a deputy, COP, city police officer, or humane society officer is to call 911.  If a COP is working, they will respond. If not a deputy will respond.”

That depends on availability, proximity and no other major cop events at that moment, of course.

Truthfully, even if Abby had been right, I don’t think having the police contact you when you’re innocent is a big improvement over being accused by a stranger in a parking lot. Maybe Abbye’s written a book about it….

Why are there both DV and disabled parking license plates?

The in basket: Garland Freymann writes, “I am a Vietnam 100 percent disabled amputee veteran with Washington “DV” license plates that are given by the state with no renewal fees. I also have a disabled placard. In a cost-cutting measure for the state, why do I still have to prove by the placard that I am qualified to park in a handicapped parking zone? We could save money by not having to produce these and allow the same privilege as handicapped plates.”

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing says, “The Disabled American Veteran (DV) license plates are different from the plates issued to people with disabilities that enable them to use parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities.

“They were created in different sections of state law, for different purposes, and with different qualification requirements. It is true that many of our veterans who have DV plates also qualify for disabled parking privileges, but that isn’t automatically the case.

“To qualify for Disabled American Veteran license plates, a veteran must provide proof of honorable or medical discharge and a 100 percent service-connected disability. The advantage of this type of registration is an exemption from annual renewal fees.

“To quality for Disabled Parking license plates, a person has to present  a medical certificate signed by a medical professional with a determination that the individual has one of the specific medical conditions detailed in state law.  The advantage of this type of plate is, of course, the use of parking reserved for people with disabilities.”

“Your reader’s suggestion makes sense,” Brad said, “but the bottom line is that the conditions which may cause a veteran to be disabled can be far different from the conditions that qualify a person for disabled parking privileges (and the associated plates and placards).

“We have to keep them separate because there are conditions that may result in a 100 percent military disability that would not qualify an individual for disabled parking. Also, there are many conditions that would qualify a veteran for disabled parking that would not qualify them for DV plates.”

 

 

Using a disabled placard when its owner stays in the car

The in basket:  Mechelle Finklein says she ran into unexpected trouble July 1 trying to use her mother’s disabled placard while driving her on errands.

“I used a disabled spot in front of a business in the Fred Meyer

parking lot,” Michelle said. “My mother decided not to get out of the car, as it would

take more time for me to get her walker out and for her to

get in the business then it would be for me to drop off what I needed

for her.

“A volunteer Port Orchard officer (whom she described as “very kind”) pulled up behind my car and asked to see a permit, so my mother got it out and showed it to

him.  When I came out of the business, he talked to me. He said

there  was a fine for parking in a disabled spot if the driver of the

car was not the disabled person.  He said they were designed  for the

driver of the car, not because the driver was driving some one that

was disabled.

“The  officer also said that I could park in front of a business to get my mom

out of the car and LEAVE her there and

move my car to a regular parking spot,  then when she was

finished with her errand, I could LEAVE her standing at the door and go

move my car to the front of the business, put her in the car and

leave the parking lot   Sorry, but I’m not leaving my 88-year old

mother anywhere that she may not be safe.

“If this is really the law,

people need to be told and the law needs to be changed for the

convenience of the disabled. If my mother not getting out of the car

caused the violation, then people  need to be informed of that

also.”

The out basket: I told Mechelle that I didn’t think the officer was spot on in what she understood him to say about the law, but that he was fully justified in contacting her.

As I’ve long understood it, her problem wasn’t that the driver of the car wasn’t disabled, but that the disabled person to whom the placard was issued didn’t need the closer proximity to the business, because she stayed in the car.

Though it happened in Port Orchard, I contacted Deputy Schon Montague of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, who has taken over from the retired Deputy Pete Ball in supervising the county’s volunteer disabled parking patrol officers.

While noting that it was a Port Orchard incident, he described the rules that govern his volunteers and his reading of the law.

“I know that a person without a disability can drive and park in a

handicapped spot and take a handicapped passenger into the store using

the passenger’s placard,” he said.

“You can do this because of a transference

of authority from the handicapped person to you.  If they were driving,

they would have used it but if you drive for them they still need to

walk that shorter distance if you don’t want to drop them off at the

front door.

“However, in this case the handicapped person was not really

using the authority of the placard because she was not getting out of

the car.  So there was no transfer of authority to the non-disabled

driver.

“Long story short I agree with you and the Port Orchard

officer/volunteer.”

Disabled parking all day in spots with a time limit

The in basket:  Michael Hilt of Manchester writes, “Evidently I need some clarification on the parking rules for the city of Bremerton.

“With the completion of the downtown tunnel and the waterfront park, the city has posted signs along First, Second, and Pacific Streets advising this area is one-hour parking only.  There seems to be only one dedicated handicapped slot here, on Second Street.  

“However,” he said, “more than a dozen vehicles with handicapped stickers (both blue and red – I don’t understand the difference) routinely occupy spots along these streets all day.  

“Most of the vehicles also have PSNS civilian access stickers on the windshield indicating to me the vehicles belong to PSNS civilian employees, thus conveniently giving them prime parking at the front of the Bremerton Gate. 

“This would seem to limit the availability of parking for visitors who wish to tour the park and museum and those who wish to shop in the downtown area. 

“First, can those with handicapped parking stickers use a dedicated one-hour spot all day?  If so, this seems to be a benefit not available to others who park downtown all day and are forced to pay for all-day parking within the city.”

“Second, doesn’t PSNS offer parking, either on base or in one of their off-base garages, for their handicapped employees?

“I think some PSNS workers have found they can take advantage of the situation,” Michael  said.

The out basket: It certainly seems that way. At noon on March 25, 16 spaces from Second Street to the ferry terminal were occupied by cars with disabled placards hanging on their rear view mirrors.  That was about 50 percent of the available spaces in that area. Many but not all had Department of Defense decals as well.

But, yes,  those with disabled plates or placards can park all day in spaces with time limits if there are no signs saying otherwise. They also can park at parking meters without paying, though I’m not sure there are any more parking meters in the county.

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police traffic says a city can enact its own rules to modify the state or federal laws that allow this, but he doesn’t believe Bremerton has done so. 

It makes no difference that a car might also have apparent access into the shipyard, he said.

The Navy does provide disabled parking spaces, says Lt. Michelle D. Kibodeaux, assistant operations officer at Naval Base Kitsap. ”

There are 15 spaces in the Navy’s parking garage in Bremerton, 125 spaces in Z lot , located across from Pier D, and 20 in F lot, located outside Missouri gate. There are also several sporadic disabled parking spaces located around the base, available primarily to areas that support customer service and require a disabled customer service space, she said. A Kitsap Access bus provides trips to and from Z lot, the one inside the base.

She noted that presence of a DOD sticker doesn’t necessarily confer parking privileges on base, or even necessarily identify  the car as that of a shipyard person, as it’s good on many other bases as well.

Fellow Navy PAO Tom Danaher says the Navy doesn’t involved itself in parking enforcement questions outside the base fences.

I’ve never learned why state law (RCW 46.61.582  Free parking for persons with disabilities) grants this kind of exemption from normal parking time limits to those with the proper plates and placards, but I hope to hear some comment on this blog from advocates for the disabled as to why it’s defensible. 

Maybe we’ll even hear from a shipyard worker or two about why parking outside the fence is preferable when they can drive inside.

Ferry-waiting parking spots and the disabled

The in basket: E-mailer Diane West and Don Chatel of Allyn, both of whom are valid disabled drivers, got $45 tickets recently on Second Street in Bremerton near the Bremerton Transportation Center. 

Diane said she’d understood that the disabled placards and plates permitted a driver to park all day on the street, even in spaces where able-bodied drivers have a time limit. 

“Can you please give me the low down on this?” she asked.

Don’s situation was exacerbated by an unfortunate miscommunication between him and city officials, which caused him to miss the court date he was assigned after protesting the ticket. He now fears the amount he will owe will go up.

After first getting the impression that the ticket would be excused, he belatedly learned that the dozen or so spaces in that location are for people picking up ferry commuters in the afternoon. The driver is required to remain in the vehicle between 4 and 7 p.m., and he returned to his car shortly before 5, so his ticket was valid.

The out basket: Carol Etgen, Bremerton city clerk, said those spaces, for the three afternoon hours drivers can’t leave their cars unattended, join fire hydrant zones, loading zones, and paid parking as places cars with disabled plates or placards must obey the same rules as everyone else.

I looked at those spaces and, frankly, it might not be hard to beat a ticket issued there in court.

The signs imposing that 4-7 p.m. restriction are a mishmash, some with arrows pointing in both directions, some pointing in only one, and one was twisted so it was almost pointing at the building rather than up and down the street. And the first one divided a parking space in two, making it unclear if that space was included.

Handicapped placards and wallet cards

The in basket: Bev Willeford writes, “My husband has permanent handicap plates on our car. My sister has permanent handicap plates on her car.
“When I drive my sister, and my
husband isn’t with us, am I allowed to park in handicap parking spots
for her as long as she has her wallet card, or does she need to have her placard that is associated with her card?”
The out basket: Deputy Pete Ball of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, who oversees his department’s enforcement of handicapped parking, calls the inquiry “unusual, to say the least.”
Still, he said, “to be perfectly legal under the law, the sister really should use her placard regardless of what car she’s in. I think it would be highly unlikely that they would ever be questioned but to be perfectly legal, her placard and ID card should be together when she is exercising her right to park in the disabled spots.”