Healthy people busted using handicap placards

October 7, 2009 9:00:00 PM PDT
The number of handicapped parking placards in North Carolina has doubled since 2006, placing more than one million of them into circulation across the state.That’s about one placard for every ten North Carolina residents. The problem is strong evidence of abuse and fraud by people who use the placards to hog downtown parking from disabled people who really need the spaces.

On weekdays, downtown Raleigh parking on many blocks is limited to one-hour time limits to ensure street parking is available for shoppers, visitors and the disabled. But on two blocks of Hillsborough Street across from the State Capitol, Eyewitness News counted two-thirds of spaces occupied by cars parked all day with handicapped placards. Many drivers looked healthy – like they did not need handicapped parking. Some even told Eyewitness News they used placards that do not belong to them.

“They shouldn’t be doing that," Raleigh resident Jean Hicks said. “They’re breaking the law.”

Hicks showed ABC 11 her handicapped placard and her cane. “I’ve had three surgeries,” she explained. “Two on my right leg and one on my left hip.”

Hicks had to park in a loading zone because all of the one-hour spaces on Hillsborough Street near the Capitol were taken, mostly with vehicles with handicapped placards.

“Where are we going to park?” she asked.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles issues the handicapped placards. Placards are given to people who return applications with a signature from a doctor, who must check one of seven possible conditions which qualify for the placards. Qualifying conditions range from not being able to walk 200 feet without resting to an ailments as vague as a “cardiac condition” or restriction “by lung disease.” The DMV says state law mandates they honor every doctor’s signature. The DMV has no record of denying handicapped placard applications.

The DMV also says it is the responsibility of local law enforcement to make sure placards are used correctly by drivers on city streets.


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