By Michael Cuneo
FAYETTE COUNTY — You’ve probably seen it before. Someone parked in a handicapped-accessible parking space without a license plate badge or placard indicating their disabled status. What do you do?
In bodycam footage obtained by the FCN, Fayette County Marshal deputy Bryan Clanton is seen responding to a call regarding this very situation.
The Marshal is seen exiting his vehicle and questioning the citizen who called the complaint in.
“Why does nobody else care?” Clanton asks the resident who made a call regarding the illegal use of a wheelchair-accessible parking space.
In Georgia, any person who stands, stops or parks in one of these spots without legitimate need is subject to a fine of $100-500.
In the last several weeks, the FCN has received numerous complaints from residents regarding situations such as these. Many relayed messages of frustration due to a seemingly reluctant approach from local law enforcement to reprimand violators.
Fayetteville Police Capt. Chad Myers said that authorities take these matters seriously but that it is sometimes challenging to identify wrongdoing.
“From my own experience, you would get somebody that wanted to park in [a handicapped-accessible parking spot], and they would do a quick glance of the car [and] they didn’t see the handicap license plate so they would call 911 … I ran into that in probably about 80% of the calls that we got,” Myers said.
Myers also said that police are often unable to find the alleged violator and thus cannot issue a ticket.
In general, illegal use of handicapped-accessible spaces is underreported due to the nature of police relying on calls from citizens.
A 2018 survey found that 42% of Americans were unaware that blue striped spaces are reserved for wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Additionally, 74% of participants surveyed said they had seen improper use of accessible parking spots.
Ever since the regulation for handicapped-accessible parking started in the 1960s, there has been the possibility of illegal parking in said spots.
While regulations mandate that public parking lots have at least one handicap accessible parking space for every 25 spots, it’s often not an adequate amount to service the community.
This problem is significantly increased when individuals misuse the designated parking spots.
This issue isn’t unique to Fayette County, however. In February, a Miami ordinance was proposed to prevent valet companies and other unauthorized vehicles from abusing the parking spaces.
In 2021 alone, San Diego wrote more than 3,400 citations for improper use of handicapped-accessible parking spots, collecting $2.1 million in citation fees.
Myers reiterated that anyone who thinks they are witnessing an accessible parking spot violation could call their local police department, which is required to respond to the situation.