By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsMay 28, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Some within the Fort Rucker community are apparently confused as to who can park in handicapped parking spaces and who can't.
While many may think this is pretty much common knowledge, Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker Police chief, said there are reasons for the confusion.
"In Alabama, you can get a disabled veteran tag, but that tag alone doesn't give you the ability to park in a handicapped parking space," he said, adding that people must have either a disabled parking license plate (or wheelchair symbol added to their DV tag) or a placard that hangs from their vehicle's rear-view mirror.
Further compounding the confusion is the fact that in neighboring Florida, DV tags make parking in handicapped spaces permissible, Dumais said, but in Alabama, disabled veterans must go a step further and get the disabled parking added on to their tags, which requires a physician's signature.
"We received some complaints that over at Lyster (Army Health Clinic) people with disabled parking permits were finding no spots available to park in -- there are 24 handicapped spots there," he said. "But what they weren't telling me is if it was because there were that many people with disabled parking license plates parked in the spots or if there were (unauthorized vehicles) in those spots."
Dumais monitored the handicapped parking situation at Lyster over two weeks and found there were some people without the disabled parking plates or placards in those handicapped parking spaces, he said.
"It was kind of a mix when we looked, so we want to make sure everyone understands -- you have to go that extra step to get the plate or the placard," the chief said.
For more on Alabama's laws on disabled parking, visit https://revenue.alabama.gov/motor-vehicle/license-plate-information/standard-disability-access-tags/standard-passenger-disability-access/. The application for a plate, symbol or placard is at https://revenue.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/MVR326230.pdf. The form includes a section for the physician to certify the disability.
Alabama Code 32-6-230 lists the following as disabilities qualifying to obtain disabled parking license plates or placards:
• The person cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest;
• The person cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, a brace, cane, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other assistive device;
• The person is restricted by lung disease to such an extent that the person's forced respiratory expiratory volume for one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 mm/hg, millimeters of mercury, on room air at rest;
• The person uses portable oxygen;
• The person has a cardiac condition to the extent that the functional limitation of the person is classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to standards set by the American Heart Association; and
• The person is severely limited in his or her ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition.
"We just want to get the word out there that these are the rules -- let's play by the rules," Dumais said.
And for those who refuse to play by the rules, there could be parking tickets in their future. The chief said a ticket for parking in a disabled parking spot without a valid license plate or placard will set people back $75, plus a $30 processing fee.
In other Fort Rucker traffic news, Dumais said the speed limit has been raised from 20 mph to 30 mph in the area around Farrell, Red Cloud and Division roads to bring it more on line with what people expect in the post cantonment area.
"What we're trying to do is standardize the speed limits on the installation. Years ago, they made most of the cantonment area 30 mph -- there used to be a number of different 20 and 30 mph areas, and it's confusing to drivers," he said. "We want to keep everything in the cantonment area 30, housing is 20, parking lots are 10 -- it's just easier for people to remember it. That area wasn't within the standard for the rest of the cantonment areas. It was brought up in a meeting and we were asked to take a look at it, and we did, and then made the change."
However, there are a couple of school zone areas within that area, so drivers will need to slow down to 20 and exercise caution when the lights are flashing, Dumais said.
And with the school year is coming to a close, drivers need to be extra cautious when driving through post housing areas, he added.
"Now that the kids are out for summer vacation, people who use the roads in the housing areas need to understand that there is a 20 mph speed limit there for a reason -- and that may even be too fast at times with children playing in the neighborhoods," Dumais said. "Be observant and be very focused on your driving -- don't be texting or talking on your phone and not paying attention to the roadway, because children can dart out in front of you at any time."