It’s one of the three key recommendations from a workgroup convened to look at abuse in the state’s disabled placard program.
The group also recommends creating a new “payment-exempt” placard, in addition to the state’s current disability placard.
Only people who have disabilities that prevent them from handling coins or tickets, or cannot physically reach a meter, would be allowed to park for free. Standard placard holders would have to start paying for street parking.
Currently, disabled drivers with a placard can park for free in any metered space for an unlimited time.
“If a meter-exempt placard were to be created, that’s one way you could still have that option for people who need it, but eliminate the free parking for those who may not need the free parking,” said Tony Sermonti, the legislative policy director for the Department of Licensing.
The Department of Licensing lead the workgroup, which also included disability advocacy groups, the city of Seattle and the Department of Health. The group, which started in June, is finalizing its recommendations this month and will forward the report to the Legislature during the upcoming session.
Sermonti said the group shadowed a parking enforcement officer in Seattle and saw people using expired handicap passes to get free street parking. “So we know it is occurring in some of our bigger cities where parking is a challenge in general,” he said.
If someone is caught using an expired or borrowed disabled placard, they must pay a $250 fine and are issued a civil parking infraction. The group recommends changing that to a more serious misdemeanor criminal offense, which carries heftier fines.
Drivers can either apply for a permanent disability placard, which is good for five years, or a temporary one, which is valid for six months. A licensed physician must sign the application.
The group’s third recommendation is to extend the temporary parking permit from six months to one year.
Sermonti said that will reduce the number of permanent placards being issued, and it gives people more time to recover from an injury or illness.