SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Last year, a California audit revealed an impossible statistic: More than 26,000 people over age 100 in the state had blue disabled placards, allowing them to park at any street meter for free, all day, or at prime blue-stenciled stalls at the front of store parking lots.
But there are only about 8,000 people older than 100 in California, and not many of them are driving anymore, according to state officials. Those vehicles parking for free at prime spots with centenarian placards are likely being driven by children or friends of formerly disabled drivers who have died.
After years of disabled placard abuse in California, state officials are launching an effort to put a dent in the number of vehicles illegally taking up some of the prime parking spots in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other large cities.
A new state law requires the state Department of Motor Vehicles to tighten oversight of the state disabled placard program. That includes reviewing the federal Social Security Administration’s “death file” and canceling placards of deceased drivers.
“I have frankly gotten tired of pulling into a Home Depot or Target and seeing someone get out and run into the store,” said Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill.
A state auditor report in April said the DMV needed to beef up efforts to prevent fraud, noting that officials accept applications without required medical documentation, issue too many duplicates and fail to cancel placards of people who have died.
Auditors estimated that several hundred thousand of the state’s 3 million placards were likely being used fraudulently.
The DMV, which has its own roving placard abuse squad, has tripled its number of citations over the past three years. The state issued 1,625 citations for illegal placard use statewide in 2016-17, up from 526 citations in 2013-14.