As holiday shopping picks up and more people are out and about, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office is cracking down on handicap parking violators.
It could be people who park in a handicap spot without a placard or use a placard that wasn’t issued for them, said Sgt. Mike Lane, supervisor of the Sheriff’s Office traffic unit for five years.
Misusing handicapped parking can result in citations that carry fines of either $120 or $140 and seizure of the handicap placard, but more importantly it takes away a spot from people who need it.
“You have people out there with legitimate disabilities, they’ve gone through the process of getting placard, and they genuinely need those spots, Lane said. “They’re made to make it more convenient for a disabled person. For people to just whip up and park, without a disability, it’s just ignorant.
“Because you want to make it convenient for yourself, you’re ruining it for somebody else. You’re affecting somebody that really, really need that spot.”
The biggest problem is misuse — people using placards that don’t belong to them for a disability they don’t have — rather than people parking in designated handicap spots without a placard, he said.
Working a detail last week with representatives from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office targeted shopping centers including Harford Mall and other areas in Bel Air, Festival at Bel Air and Walmarts in Abingdon and Fallston.
The traffic unit seized 18 placards and issued 19 citations, Lane said.
“That’s a lot for three hours,” he said.
Another day, he saw a car in a handicap spot without a placard and when Lane questioned the driver why she parked there, she said, “Because it’s cold out and I forgot my jacket.”
“That’s just laziness and ignorance,” Lane said. He issued the driver a $140 citation.
Lane tries to use common sense when looking at violations, he said. He asked a woman who was parking in a handicap spot with a placard in her car about her disability — drivers are required to keep a medical certificate with them as proof of the need for the placard.
When the woman told Lane it was her grandmother’s, instead of citing her and seizing the permit, “instead I educated her,” Lane said, and explained why that’s not appropriate.
“If she would have gone into the store and shopped, I would have cited her. But she moved her car,” Lane said.