Parking spaces for drivers with disabilities are normally marked with signs accompanied with a wheelchair image and words such as “Reserved Parking Only” or “Handicapped Parking. Vehicle I.D. Required.”
State law says that motorists using those prized parking spots must display a placard, permit or authorized certificate, or bear a disability license plate.
But it’s no secret that some able-bodied drivers abuse those spots because they are conveniently located near entrances to bars, restaurants and malls and often are empty. Others flout the law by using tags that don’t belong to them but perhaps to a sibling, spouse, parent or deceased relative.
Drive reader Shawn asked a question about a scenario that may fall somewhere between legal and illegal.
Say there’s an able-bodied driver behind the wheel and a person with a disability is a passenger. Is it legal to use a handicap parking spot if the person with the disability, who has a permit, stays in the car while the able-bodied driver goes into the store?
The spirit of the law would say no, said Roseville Police Chief Rick Mathwig.
He said he has not run into that scenario, but based on state statute he believes the able-bodied driver would be in violation of the law if the person with the disability did not get out of the car and go to the intended destination.
A portion of the state statute says a person shall not park in a handicap space unless they are “transporting or parking a motor vehicle for a physically disabled person.”
That is where things get fuzzy, because the interpretation of the “for the physically disabled person” may ultimately depend on the judge at a subsequent trial if a citation were issued, Mathwig said.
In situations like this, “a judge ultimately decides if the statute was enforced or applied correctly,” said Michelle Stark, a spokeswoman with the Oakdale Police Department.
Drivers found guilty can plan on paying at least a $100 fine, and likely more by the time court costs are tacked on.
Here are the rules to legally use a parking spot for the handicapped: A motorist must have a state-issued placard, permit valid for 30 days, or disability plates with emblems attached on both the front and rear of the vehicle.
A placard or equivalent certificate, insignia or plate issued by another state or country is also acceptable.
The Minnesota Council on Disability lists conditions that allow a motorist to obtain handicap parking privileges, provided their condition is verified by a health professional. Those include:
• A driver has a severe cardiac condition that meets standards set by the American Heart Association.
• A driver uses portable oxygen or has restrictions caused by a respiratory disease.
• A driver has lost an arm or a leg and does not have or cannot use an artificial limb.
• A driver cannot walk without the aid of another person or device such as a wheelchair or cane.
• Walking 200 feet would be life-threatening, introduce a significant risk of falling or be difficult without stopping to rest.
Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail email@example.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.