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California legislator proposes new law to address misuse of disabled parking placards

An undercover DMV officer waits with a shopping cart next to a disabled parking spot while conducting an enforcement sweep of fraudulent use of disabled parking placards at the Glendale Galleria. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
An undercover DMV officer waits with a shopping cart next to a disabled parking spot while conducting an enforcement sweep of fraudulent use of disabled parking placards at the Glendale Galleria. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The California Department of Motor Vehicles would be required to do more to confirm that those who use disabled parking placards actually need them, under state legislation proposed Wednesday after an audit warned of possible widespread abuse.

The state audit released April 18 found 70 of 96 approved placard applications in a sample group "did not include sufficient medical information to demonstrate that the applicant qualified.” In addition, a check of the name and date of birth of active placard holders against the Social Security Administration's Death Master File identified nearly 35,000 matches.

“Taking unfair advantage of our state’s disabled placard program is an act of fraud,” state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said in a statement introducing the bill. “We must ensure that the DMV is equipped with the tools to effectively oversee the program so that it properly serves disabled drivers and works to eliminate abuse of the system.”

Some 2.9 million Californians have disabled parking placards or license plates that allow them to use special parking spots near the entrances of buildings and to park for free at curbs with meters.

Hill said his bill will implement audit recommendations that include:

  • Requiring the DMV to conduct quarterly audits of applications and to work with state health boards to analyze applications to ensure that information from medical providers is complete
  • Requiring the DMV to use the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to cancel placards whose permit holders have died
  • Requiring all permanent placard holders to reapply every four years
  • Requiring applicants to provide proof of their name and date of birth, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate
  • Limiting the number of replacement placards that can be obtained within a two-year period to two placards. If more replacements are needed, placard holders would need to reapply for a permit
  • Adding podiatrists to the list of medical providers able to certify applications related to disabilities of the foot or ankle

The proposal will be added into an existing bill, Senate Bill 611, later this month, Hill said.

“We must make sure the drivers who need this important program have access to the benefits it provides – and block scofflaws and fraudsters from gaming the system,” he said.

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