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Able-bodied drivers fined for tag misuse

Jan. 27, 2010

Baylor police ticket nine for parking in handicap spots

Photo Illustration by Jed Dean | Photo Editor

By Bethany Moore
Staff writer

Nine people, including students and faculty, were fined $150 when they illegally used a handicap-parking hang tag to park at the Ferrell Center during basketball games on Jan. 16 and 17.

The increase of non-handicapped people using handicapped parking, specifically at the Ferrell Center, and the complaints of those who actually need the handicapped parking, has caused Baylor police to hold random stings for the past five years.

Cpl. Marla Garrett was one of the officers checking the hang tags at the Ferrell Center.

"Taking a disabled parking spot from someone who is actually disabled is something I have a big issue with," Garrett said. "It is just wrong."

During a recent sting, four Baylor police officers stopped every car with a disabled hang tag and asked for the driver's license and the tag to verify that the numbers were the same.

Baylor police Chief Jim Doak said that he can't believe that, with more than 150 parking spots allotted for disabled parking, they are completely filled during almost every game.

"People are so geared toward convenience that they feel they can justify that, 'I'm 50 years old. I shouldn't have to walk,'" Doak said.

Out of the nine violations, most of those caught were using their spouse's hang tag to park in disabled parking without the disabled spouse in the car.

Doak said that those who legally need the hang tags were very appreciative of Baylor police enforcing the parking and fining those who were taking the spots from those who need them.

When caught with an illegitimate hang tag Baylor citation and fine is given and the hang tag is confiscated.

If Baylor police decide to report a misused hang tag to the Waco police department, the violator would receive a $510 fine, as well as a $500-$750 fine to the person who lent the hang tag.

"That amazes me that parents and grandparents would give them to their kids," Garrett said. "Perfectly able-bodied students, using hang tags. I have an issue with that."

Garrett said that they get many different reactions from those caught, from shock to embarrassment to telling the officer they are wrong.

Whenever the accused tell officers they can't take the tag, Doak said they simply read to them what is written on the bottom of the hang tag.

"It clearly states," Doak said, "that the unauthorized use of this device may result in the revocation of your privilege to possess a handicap parking placard."

Garrett said that those who are using the hang tag illegally should understand the law.

"Some people we stop really believe they aren't breaking the law because it is their mother's car or the disabled person isn't in the car with them right then," Garrett said.

"However the transportation code says that it is illegal to stand, park or block any disabled area without a placard being issued to a person in the vehicle."

Student Body President Jordan Hannah worked last spring with the Baylor initiative, "Bear the Difference," which works to raise awareness about those with physical or mental disabilities ,and said he is let down that people would take the parking spots when others are in need of them.

"It's certainly disappointing to hear of people taking advantages of handicap spots that are specifically allocated to individuals with verified physical disabilities," Hannah said.

"I hope they understand that their actions are illegal and not a proper use of those spaces. From now on I hope they don't take advantage of those spaces and respect the rules and regulations in place."