Unauthorized handicap parking use rising
August 23, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 23, 2012) -- While handicap parking spaces on post are by design appealing places to park, the people of Fort Rucker are reminded that the spaces are only for the use of those with legitimate handicaps.
Current trends suggest that more people are abusing the handicap parking spaces on Fort Rucker and, according to Marcel Dumais, chief of police for Fort Rucker, some of those violators might not know that they are breaking the law.
"I think there is a misunderstanding on post on what constitutes handicap parking. There may be some disabled American veterans with disabled veteran identifiers on their license plate that think they can park in the blue spaces, but unless they have a long-term disability and they have either the license plate or permit with the blue wheelchair symbol on their dash that states that they do have a disability, they are not authorized to park there," he said.
The parking spaces are for those specific people that have disabilities, which have a wide qualification range.
"The disabilities range from people who can't walk over 200 feet or have to walk with some type of assistance, like a cane or walker, to those who rely on portable oxygen or have some type of cardiovascular condition," said Dumais.
Dumais added that people using a vehicle that has a handicap permit but are not themselves handicapped, must refrain from parking in handicap spaces.
"If you are not handicapped and are driving without a disabled person, then do not park in those designated spots. When average drivers that are not handicapped take up a handicap space, that means whoever is handicapped has to park farther away, and depending on their condition that may be a bridge too far for them," he said.
Dumais said that the fees that go with illegally parking in a blue space can quickly add up for repeat offenders.
"The minimum first offense ticket when parking in a handicap space without a permit is $50. The second offense is a minimum fine of $200 and the third offense is a minimum of $500. Disabled people have to live through enough hardship and by making a walk a few feet shorter they can enjoy a safer shopping trip. They might not be able to walk the distance from a normal parking space and might not be able to do their shopping that day [if they have to walk so far], so let's do our part by not taking that away from them," he said.
Other traffic violations can also compromise the mission of safety on the installation.
"We continue to see a lot of people using their cell phones while they are driving without the use of a hands-free device. We have put up 42 signs around the installation that say to only use hands free devices while driving, but we continue to have an issue," Dumais said.
"It is unacceptable, unlawful and very dangerous to talk on the phone while driving," he added.
It is a $55 fine for talking or texting while driving on the installation.
"People get the idea that if they are talking on speaker phone then that constitutes as hands-free, but it is not. They are absolutely not allowed to talk on speaker phone on post. That is just as dangerous because drivers have to use the phone to get the speaker feature to work," he said.
If drivers must speak with a caller then Dumais asks drivers to pull off the roadway, put the car in park and then take the call.
Dumais also wants to remind drivers that school is back in session, so children will be walking and riding bikes to school, which requires drivers to stay aware of their surroundings even more so while in the housing areas.
"The housing and school area posted speed limits are 20 mph. Make sure you pay particular attention in the mornings and mid afternoons to watch for children coming and going from school. Children will be children, so they may run into the road; it's up to drivers to stay vigilant so they do not hurt a child. Your focus should be on driving while driving," he said.
By drivers familiarizing themselves with the hours that children are going to be on the streets and sidewalks, Dumais said that alone can prevent accidents.
"When you have a couple hundred students making their way to school, the potential risk that children could be injured goes up, so parental supervision and driver awareness needs to be at its peak to ensure their safety," he said.
Fort Rucker has been fortunate that no serious accidents have been caused by texting and driving on post, but the chief of police reminds drivers that they cannot become complacent while driving.
"Please, when you're driving, your focus needs to remain on the road. So many inattentive driving accidents occur in our area as well as on post, it's no wonder Alabama has passed the no texting law. We're trying to make the roadways safer by taking away some of the technology while driving. It is for everyone's safety, drivers and pedestrians alike," he said.