OLYMPIA — The state of Washington is considering ending free on-street parking for most disabled drivers because some people are misusing disabled parking passes.
A new report delivered to lawmakers last week recommends people who can feed coins into a meter should pay, The Daily Herald reported in Monday’s newspaper.
The report recommends only those who are physically unable to reach a machine should be allowed to park for free.
“It is apparent that free parking or allowing time beyond that posted for those with the disabled placard or license plate are the likely root causes to fraudulent use of disabled parking privileges,” the report stated.
More than 700,000 Washington drivers have disabled parking permits.
The Legislature created a nine-person work group in June to seek to stop abuse of the disabled parking placards and license plates, determine if placards are too easy to obtain and if the practice of allowing physicians sign off on applications is too loose.
Existing state law gives free parking to anyone with a valid disabled parking placard or license plate. The work group tried unsuccessfully to figure out the intent behind that provision of state law.
“We were not able to determine intent and could not find a nexus between having a disability and being able to pay for parking,” they wrote.
The report recommends cities and counties be given the authority to allow for free parking or additional time for all placard holders if they choose.
Other recommendations include harsher penalties for illegally obtaining or using a placard — from a traffic infraction with a fine to a misdemeanor offense that carries a threat of time behind bars.
They would like to see the placards redesigned in a way that would help law enforcement officers determine when one is expired or being improperly used. They suggested adding a serial number at the center and a barcode on the bottom that could be easily scanned through the window.
If lawmakers embrace the idea, licensing officials estimated it would take two years to design a new placard and develop rules on how it would be given out, according to the report.