Illinois wants to crack down on those who abuse the handicapped parking system. A new state law that takes effect January 1st creates tougher requirements for free parking in spots that have meters.
Under current state rules, anyone with a handicap designation for their vehicle is exempt from paying a parking meter in Illinois. But the new law establishes a tiered-system for that exemption. That means disabled drivers who have the standard placard will have to begin inserting coins when they park in these spots. However, they still can seek out designated handicapped spots.
Bill Bogdan is the disability liaison for the Secretary of State's office. He says by creating a specialized placard, they hope to weed out those who abuse the system.
“It happens too often where a person with a disability is issued a placard, but it is then used by a friend or relative when the disabled person isn’t present,” Bogdan said.
Bogdan says it's been a big problem in cities like Springfield and Chicago. He says the new system should give municipalities a chance to recoup some of the meter money that may have lost due to disabled parking fraud.
Bogdan acknowledges that in places where parking is more expensive, the changes might result in sticker shock for some people. But he says the exemption was never created as a financial break for handicapped drivers. He says the program was aimed at helping those with trouble accessing the meters.
The secretary of state's office has been mailing out applications for the new cycle of placards, which begins in 2014. Officials say if a disabled person isn't sure they meet the new requirements for the exemption, they should check with their doctor.