In the last year of her life, my Mom was slowed by age and illness. Mobility issues forced her to use a walker to get around. Mom traded in her driver’s licenses for a Handicapped placard which she could transfer to any vehicle in which she was a passenger. She knew where the handicapped spaces were located at the places she frequented. It irked her to discover vehicles without special placards or license plates parked in them. She didn’t like to be “dropped off” while her companion hunted for a space. It was a major production which she found embarrassing. Get out of the car, retrieve the walker from the backseat, open it up, help Mom out of the car, get her situated, and wait to make sure she entered the establishment without incident. Sometimes, when she saw an able-bodied person saunter to the vehicle he or she parked in a handicapped spot, Mom speak up,
“You shouldn’t be parking there. This is for handicapped people.”
“I was only running in for a minute,” the driver replied.
“Be thankful, you can run,” was her sharp retort.
In NJ, over 50,000 license plates and 460,000 placards have been issued to persons with certain handicaps. A list of the criteria for these permits and an application may be found at www.state.nj.us/mvc/Vehicle/handicapped_qualifications.htm.
Those who park in handicapped spaces without a license plate or placard are subject to fines and repeat offenders may be required to serve 90 days community service. The NJ Legislature is considering a bill that cracks down on motorists who unlawfully use a temporary or permanent handicapped parking placard. If Assemblymen Reed Gusciora, John Burzichelli, and Troy Singleton have their way, violators would face fines of up to $500.
It’s too bad we need this law. Handicapped spaces are the ultimate “preferred” parking, located conveniently near the entrance to the market, library, restaurant, or movies. But, my Mom would have so “preferred” to walk across a parking lot with a sprightly, confident gait. She would have preferred not to need a walker. But since she did, she preferred being able to park in a handicapped space.