It’s never a good idea for an able-bodied motorist to park in a handicapped parking space and it will be a particularly bad idea next week.
Police throughout the county will be out looking for violators who illegally park in spaces reserved for those with handicapped permits. County Commissioner Tom Belfiore has asked local police departments to join in a concerted effort to rigidly enforce handicapped parking violations next week in recognition of National Disabilities Awareness Month.
The county will also be tracking the number of summonses issued and looking for improper permits.
“It’s simply not okay to park in a space designated for the handicapped even if ‘just for a minute,’” Belfiore said. “We need to leave these spaces for the people who really need them.” This effort will focus on the following issues:
The Office for the Disabled is also doing its part to raise awareness about the subject.
Anna Masopaust, the county’s handicapped parking education coordinator, will personally lobby more than 70 local magistrates today at a conference being held at Pace University’s Law Center. She will stress the magnitude and importance of this issue, distribute packets of information and ask them to assist with the enforcement week by being less tolerant of handicapped parking violations when these matters are brought before the court, Masopust noted that she sat in on several traffic court sessions around the county and was surprised at how many handicapped parking violations were brought before the court and dismissed. She noted that many don’t realize that part of the money received from fines goes to support toward the Office for the Disabled’s handicapped parking awareness program, which includes disability awareness.
“Even the courts take it too lightly,” Masopust said. “I work with people every day whose ability to get around depends on these spaces. The rules need to be enforced and violators penalized so they won’t do it again.”
Fines throughout the county range from $50 to $180 with an additional $30 surcharge. $15 of that surcharge comes to the county for its education program while the other $15 goes to the ticketing municipality for internal education.
She noted that a recently passed state law allows the spaces to be designated as tow-away zones.