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Disabled Parking is disabled.

As a long time beneficiary of the Mobility Parking Scheme, I have been and continue to be very grateful.  This scheme, the one in New South Wales that I know so well, is generous and kind to those that need it and is a very great credit to the governments that created it and support it.  However, this scheme is now the victim of misuse and abuse and is in danger of becoming yet another good idea gone bad that no one wants to be associated with, other than people like me who really, really need it.

There are four types of people that are causing this scheme to fail. They are:

  1. Non-authorised, healthy drivers who simply disregard the restrictions
  2. Authorised drivers who really don’t meet the criteria and so have improperly gained their authority
  3. Identity thieves who use other people’s authorities, or illegally obtained ‘authorities’ in their own name, to take advantage of the scheme
  4. Doctors who abuse the system by indiscriminately issuing documents that give unqualified patients authorisation

1. Healthy, unauthorised drivers that abuse this scheme are already fined substantially (I think it is $499 in NSW) and that should be a sufficient deterrent for this selfish and inconsiderate offence.  I would add a three strike policy to the act that requires a third offence to be dealt with in a court setting with minimum, mandatory penalties and considerable scope for harsher penalties if deemed more suitable, such as periodic detention or compulsory community work if appropriate.  The punishment should fit the crime and be intended to drive the message home to the guilty driver.  A $10,000 fine means nothing to a billionaire!

2. Authorised drivers that have a minor disability that does not properly fulfil the criteria, should be identified and taken off the scheme.  Returning to the scheme for these individuals (if their condition deteriorates so that they do meet the criteria) should then be required to bring their own medical documentation and to then undergo a review by a government or specialised doctor to verify their qualification for participation in the scheme.

3. Identity thieves, who falsely use someone else’s authority or have acquired their own by deception, should be dealt with as felons by the criminal system. The traffic act is not designed to deal with this type of offence.  A driver caught doing this would therefore be arrested, taken into custody and subsequently charged with identity fraud, obtaining an authority by fraud, misrepresentation or some other serious offence that could be legislated for the purpose.  A conviction for such an offence would become a criminal record and would therefore carry stiff penalties and a black mark on the individual’s character.

4. Doctors or other professionals who knowingly participate in a fraud will also be liable to prosecution, particularly if favour or payment was returned for the action.  In most cases a stern warning and perhaps a course of training in understanding the criteria would be sufficient for a wayward or lax doctor.  In more severe situations other sanctions may be considered by their colleges and societies.

There is a fifth group that although are legitimate users of the scheme, see it as the provision of their own, private parking place in prime, CBD locations.  So often I see the same car parked in the same accessible spot all day, every day.  This is also a definite abuse of the system, but this can easily be identified by the rangers that patrol these areas and warnings can be issued.  If that fails, time-limiting the location to 2 hours would stop this activity and might even be a good idea for all CBD (where parking is extremely restricted and expensive) areas.

It is my fervent belief that if these changes were implemented, the scheme would quickly and massively tighten up.  After an initial public information campaign and one or two people being prosecuted, the message would get around and the incidence of abuse, which is now outrageous, would all but disappear.  There will always be individuals who believe they are smarter or more entitled than the rest of us and there will be a very workable system in place to deal with them.  I also think that an initial amnesty period wherein crook authorities could be surrendered without prosecution or follow up would be a very good way to start.  It would go a long way to fixing the problems for very little cost, while providing a positive aspect to the advertising campaign and a very clear start date for the new rules and penalties.

Finally, I find it difficult to understand why authorised disabled drivers have vastly different schemes in different parts of the country.  Each State treats this very differently.  This creates unnecessary stress and confusion for disabled people that they really don’t need.  This is pretty darn obvious, isn’t it?  Just driving around a strange place is hard enough without further worrying about getting an infringement because the rules there are different to home, but are not displayed anywhere for reference.  In my travels I regularly call the local police for advice but they usually struggle to explain all the rules properly and I have certainly struggled trying to take it all in.  Wouldn’t it be so much smarter to have a National Standard Scheme and dispense with the variations and confusion entirely?

There are many ways that this generous scheme can be improved.  Some things, like internationally accepted, standard markings (the blue wheelchair symbol) have already been adopted.  Standard sizes and facilities already exist (adherence to these is patchy) and should be law throughout the country.  The suggestions made in this essay are only intended to inform the uninformed and to rally those that are aware of the problems but don’t know how to fix them.

Another ongoing problem exists when the designated space is located within a private (not public land) car park.  In that situation the laws have no jurisdiction.  How about the operator of the car park renting those designated spots to their local council for a negotiated amount (perhaps estimated from projected infringement earnings) which would then expose the users of those spots to the full force of the law?  Seems delightfully simple to me!

Together, we could make representations to the various administrations and thereby make a difference.   It just has to start somewhere, so why not here?

Please add you comments and ideas, as well as links to other sites and resources that are tackling these problems.

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7 Comments on “Disabled Parking is disabled.”

  1. lindsay mccormack July 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    don’t get me started on disabled parking & the arseholes who abuse it

  2. lindsay mccormack July 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    no m8 I get pissed off with people who have exemptions but don’t need them you see it at the hospital a lot

  3. lindsay mccormack July 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    I saw this lowlife get out of his car after parking in a disabled car spot & run up the road to catch a bus I challenged him he said it was his dads permit & I should mind my own busness I took his number

  4. rodstern July 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Thanks for leaving these remarks, Lindsay. Your anger at this abuse is palpable and does you credit. I do not know which hospital you refer to, but around here the hospitals are a favorite hunting ground for parking rangers. Next time, give the number to hospital security or to the police and a hefty fine might assist in this man’s rehabilitation. Besides, it will empower you and help with your rage, as it is not good for your health! 🙂
    “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing” – Edmund Burke

  5. Anne July 17, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    My mother and I live in a condominium in Massachusetts are both disabled and possess handicap placards.There is a woman in our building (Marguerite) who is also disabled with a placard. We have assigned spaces for our autos, hers is directly in front of the building.Instead of parking in her assigned spot she parks in the one handicap spot…she rarely goes out thus monopolizing the spot for herself. IF she does go out her husband moves his vehicle into the spot and uses her placard to hold the space. The Board refuses to do anything about this issue. What are your thoughts?

    • rodstern July 17, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      @Anne – Your story and situation are another sad example of how broken the system really is. You ask for my thoughts, and I have considered what it must be like for you there. It must be awful, particularly as you have tried to get the ‘Board’ to take action, without success. Without knowing the finer details of your case, I cannot advise you of suitable steps to take, nor should I. However, I can say what I might do if it were me! First, try to talk it out with Marguerite and her husband. You may have already tried, but this is the best way to resolve this matter. Secondly, canvas the individual members of the Board (the other residents there?), join the Board and keep at them to take a firm, documented, position on this. Once that happens, you may, or may not, have a legal means to effect change. Thirdly, you could try to use shame as a weapon; take photos of the husband parking there and put up notices that tell the story. Be careful not to defame them as that will get you into trouble! Doing this might make an interesting story for local TV news, too. However, even that may not change their behavior. Finally, you can take responsibility for yourself and either learn to live and let live, or move to another location and leave this all behind you. I wish you luck with your crusade and I thank you for contributing to my blog. Keep sharing and distributing links to me so that we might start something positive and good. 🙂

      • Anne July 17, 2013 at 10:22 am #

        Thank you for your input and insight. My 82 year old mother has politely spoken with them to no avail. I have begun formulating a letter to the board and plan on attending the open meeting in August. We both take responsibility for ourselves, however, in certain circumstances such as bringing home groceries it would be heavenly to utilize the space that is rightfully there for all disabled persons not just a select self-imposed special individual. I have thought about leaving a note on the meaning of neighbors, sharing, consideration but I’m thinking that shaming may be the way to go (please know that this is NOT my every day “normal” behavior!). In the near future I am hoping to post a positive resolution to this ugly issue. Best Regards.

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