DMV cracking down on handicapped placard cheaters

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- With 2.9 million placards issued in California, it can be difficult to find a handicapped parking space. So the DMV is cracking down on cheaters, doing 24 sweeps a month across the state.

"I think there's so many people abusing it," said San Jose resident Dick Miller, who was issued a temporary placard in December after hip surgery. "The trouble is sometimes you can't tell if a person needs it or not."

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Sworn DMV investigators fanned out in the parking lot of a warehouse store in San Jose Thursday morning to check that the placards hanging from rear view mirrors were valid and were being used by the person to whom they're issued. They determined that the placard in one vehicle was expired, and the driver got a citation after returning with a filled basket from the store. Cece Michaud will have to appear in court.

"I'm guilty... What can I say?" the Morgan Hill resident said. "I mean, I didn't pay attention. I didn't follow the rules. I have to pay for it."

A record of her citation will also be placed in her DMV driving record.

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Taking a handicapped parking space from someone with a valid placard can lead to hardship. Just ask San Jose resident Celina McLeish how long it sometimes takes to find one.

"Ten, 15 minutes," she estimated. "Sometimes I have to park really far over there," pointing a long distance away. Being handicapped, she said it's a real hardship not to have access to a close-in space that might be occupied by a cheater.

The DMV has issued 1,667 citations over the past nine months, including three in San Jose on Thursday. Fines range from $250 to $1,000, depending on the jurisdiction.

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"We're trying to use enforcement operations, combined with public awareness campaign," said DMV spokesman Jamie Garza, "to get people to understand they need to save that space."

The more the word gets out that the DMV is cracking down on the misuse of placards, the more compliance there seems to be, which is a winning situation for those who truly need them.

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