Disabled placard violations soar in California. Here's where scofflaws were targeted

Planning to use grandma's disabled parking placard to get a prime spot for that upcoming ballgame or concert? Better think again.

During the fiscal year that ended last week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles cited 2,485 people for abusing the cards, designed to accommodate people with limited mobility.

That was a 58 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, when DMV issued 1,625 such citations. The violations are misdemeanors that carry fines of $250 to $1,000.

The agency began cracking down on scofflaws in 2017, following years of abuse of the blue placards.

The DMV's approach is to catch violators in the act, said spokesman Jaime Garza. "We move around," frequently scouting potential abusers at music and sports venues and other large gatherings, he said. "We go to different spots, because we don't want people to know where we're going to be."

When they target a suspected violator, investigators ask for their placard registration card and identification that matches the card. "If you don't have it, you're in trouble," Garza said. "It's pretty basic. If the placard is not assigned to you, you can't use it."

On average, he said, one out of 10 people who DMV investigators stopped during the past 12 months were either illegally using a disabled person's parking placard or parking in a disabled spot without a placard.

In the month of June alone, investigators approached 92 people in Sacramento and issued eight citations, statistics show. Statewide that month, 1,548 drivers were approached and 140 citations issued.

Most of the violators, Garza said, are people who are using a family member's or friend's placard, although the cards sometimes are illegally purchased online.

"All types of people misuse the placards. It's not a socioeconomic thing," he said. Investigators have issued citations recently to a college student in San Jose and an attorney in Fresno, said Garza.

The months in which the most citations were issued statewide during the past year were in September and April. The spikes were primarily a result of enforcement actions at the Los Angeles County Fair and the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in Indio, Garza said.

He said the crackdown will continue for the foreseeable future. "Our goal is to raise public awareness about the correct use of the placards," he said, "and ultimately to get to the point where we have to issue issue zero tickets."

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