Secretary of State White Pushes For Tougher Penalties For Handicap Parking Abuse
Jesse White is not fooling around.
Especially when it comes to handicap parking abuse.
The Illinois Secretary of State announced his wish to see harsher penalties for drivers who abuse disabled parking placards or handicap license plates to park for free at metered parking spaces or in designated handicap parking spots before convening his Advisory Committee on Traffic Safety Thursday morning at the State of Illinois building.
White is asking to create a new offense for the general misuse of a plate or placard a Class A Misdemeanor which would carry a minimum one-year suspension of the offender’s driver’s license and a $2500 fine. This offense and penalty would be in addition to even harsher penalties for general misuse of a disability placard or license plate.
The current 30 day license suspension would increase to six months for the first offense, up to a year for the second offense and make the current penalty of a one year suspension for a third offense to a full year of license revocation.
“The message we are sending is simple: if you don’t belong there, don’t park there,” said White. “Stronger penalties will hopefully make people think twice before they deprive a person with a disability from using a disability parking spot.”
When pressed on the idea of eliminating the law that allows disabled drivers to park for free at meters, White didn’t seem to embrace the idea and said it could be hard for people in wheel chairs to feed parking meters.
“That’s kind of a hardship,” opined White. “That’s one of those things that we will be discussing with Representative May. She has proposals to do this and we will listen to her.”
Rep. Karen May introduced a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that addressed the issue of free parking at meters for disabled drivers.
Besides having many state politicians on the committee, White appointed former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Sam Skinner to serve as well.
“The problem is people are entitled to these placards and entitled to parking and it’s others who are using those placards and abusing the process,” said Skinner. “So Secretary White has asked me to help out and really kind of study the whole issue and figure out what we can do and make recommendations to the secretary.”
Skinner plans on looking at other programs across the nation and borrowing good ideas from elsewhere in Illinois.
“I asked him to give permission to look at whatever is being done around the country, what are the best practices in the country and see if we can put them in place in Illinois,” says Skinner.
White’s move to bring the hammer down on people abusing disability parking placards and handicap license plates comes on the heels of revelations that Chicago Parking Meters, LLC the company which has a 75 year lease to operate city metered parking, billed Chicago over $13 million due to the disproportionate number of vehicles utilizing handicap plates or placards to park for free in metered spaces.